March 7, 2007 9:08 AM PST

The next game controller--your brain?

A new game platform apparently makes it possible to manipulate a virtual world with one's thoughts and emotions.

Emotiv Systems unveiled on Wednesday a brain/computer interface system with a helmet and software applications at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Emotiv Systems ECU

The Project Epoc system can move objects based on a gamer's thoughts, reflect facial expressions and respond to the excitement or calm the gamer displays, the company said.

Sensors in the helmet pick up on electric signals in the brain. The system software analyzes the signals emitted by the brain and then wirelessly relays what it detects to a receiver. The receiver is plugged into the USB port of a game console or PC, according to Randy Breen, Emotiv's chief product officer.

As with handwriting or voice recognition, the machine itself has a learning curve, improving as it better understands what the player is thinking, but there is also a skill level involving visualization on the part of the gamer.

Anecdotally, the system seems to work best with children and others open to believing in their capability, according to Breen. It seems that gamers who believe in their ability to manipulate the virtual world with their brain--the kind of people who are skilled at using their imagination, in other words--are better at using the device.

"The detection works best when you think about that action in a particular way, repeating that thought pattern," Breen said.

"We have had a number of kids try the equipment, and they often get the best results right away," Breen said. "Part of that is because the kid doesn't have the same kind of barriers as an adult does. Lots of kids can fantasize about moving a cup (telekinetically) and believe it."

Adults, on the other hand, are more definitive in their thinking and thus have a barrier to believing that they can do something out of the ordinary, Breen said.

While almost anyone can do at least one action with the device, Breen said some adults require practice to master up to three simultaneous actions.

The helmet shown at the show is only a prototype to demonstrate to game developers what can be done with the technology. While Emotiv is not yet ready to announce any partnerships, Breen did say the product will be coming to market in 2008.

In conjunction with Project Epoc's debut, the company launched a kit for game developers Wednesday. Emotiv also announced that it is developing its technology for use in other industries, including medicine, security, market research and interactive television.

Emotiv, founded in 2003, has offices both in Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco. The company counts among its investors the Australian government. One of its four co-founders is Allan Snyder, director of The Centre for the Mind, a joint venture of the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. Steven Duvall, the director of technology for Intel Capital's International Sector, serves as an adviser to the company.

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ESP no too far off.
If this controller actualy works, eESP (electronic Extra Sensory Perception) should not be to far off. This could potentially prove to be an almost fool proof lie detector test. Cool concept, the future uses are a little scary though. My personal fantasy for this kind of device would be to transcribe music that you think in you head. Guitar hero of the not so distant future.

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Posted by monumentsinstone (6 comments )
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no doubt music
i often find myself with too many intruments all at once in my head to get it down properly, it'd be great to sit and lay down tracks with two or more people hooked up to it simultaniously. mind reading pro tools. heh.
Posted by mRfung (15 comments )
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mind control applications
this is what they let us see.the government is well ahead of this no doubt.mind control anyone?
Posted by phenylamine (1 comment )
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google better jump on this quick
you know what you want, but you can't always find the words for it...better searching if this device can pick up on the desired results. I wonder if it can pick up on abstract thoughts or literal language thoughts, ya know thinking words and it typing it'd be quiet in the office with nobody typing. i wonder if it would understand different languages too, would it have to be programmed to understand french vs english for instance or just know. cool stuff....i wonder what would happen during a thunderstorm though :P
Posted by Rohan.Black (3 comments )
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perhaps not quite yet...
It doesn't sound like this device handles anything beyond "movement" oriented control. Scientists have about a 3% grasp on how the brain functions.... there is a vastly overwhelming majority in the lack of knowledge for now.

Most of that 3% (not exact number) is in the area of motor skills. They understand a lot about how motor skills function...and they are starting to understand how we see. This is evident in the human/brain/machine interfaces that have recently been developed where a person can control a complex machine with their brain and also in how a video camera can be used to feed images directly into the visual cortex of the brain of blind people that had sight in the past.

Perhaps "non tangible" thoughts will be coming down the road soon... but there haven't been any major breakthroughs that I know of yet. This is still pretty huge being able to detect someone's mind attempting to move an object.

I would love to put on a lightweight device that let me play games with my thoughts.
Posted by quarky42 (17 comments )
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Been there done that!
My company reported the development of something simular to this almost a year ago. Though still in the early stages of development it sounds like we are close to the what this company has. Ours is much different looking, but the bicycle helment design that they use seems like it could work. Awful bulky though.
Posted by Folger (2 comments )
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I am anxiously awaiting this device. My brother suffered a traumatic brain injury 5 years ago, and is unable to communicate very well at all. It is completely obvious to people that know him that he is thinking and trying to communicate. Sometimes he cries about it, as he gets so completely worn out and frustrated. His mind is working, but it cannot tell his body, including his face and vocal chords, what to do. I am hopeful that this technology can be adapted to help him and people in his position be able to communicate once again. Maybe he can even be a champion scrabble player again!
Posted by vtx13s (1 comment )
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