Head Games: The Future of the Thought Police

By this time next year, I fully expect to see the Nintendo Wii U on sale, having proliferated homes through the holiday season. The successor to the Xbox 360, which will likely feature a built-in Kinect module, may also have entered the marketplace. The question today is how long it will take until neural interface gaming products, like those from NeuroSky and Emotiv Systems, will become part of mainstream gaming.

In brief, with the least amount of science possible, EEG technology is used to detect and measure bio-signals of an electrical nature. EEG has been studied and applied for educational and gaming purposes on the basis of how well a person can passively or actively produce consistent bio-signals.

More importantly, the technology has already reached a consumer friendly price and application. One of the most common examples of accessible EEG tech is Neurosky’s NecoMiMi headset. The NecoMiMi uses bio-signals to manipulate servos on top of the headset in order to give the wearer emotive, cat-like ears.

Beyond the NecoMiMi, Neurosky is further exploring the potential of EEG tech as a gaming peripheral with some basic games, including ‘NeuroBoy’.

A more expensive (and possibly more complicated and intrusive) EEG gaming peripheral comes from Emotiv Systems. Its biggest feature is an ability to be used as part of current games.

These neural interfaces demonstrate more than enough potential to become part of current game designs. At minimum, it should possible to get an on/off binary output from a neural interface. Players love using Microsoft’s Kinect for dragon shouting in ‘Skyrim’, and regularly wear headsets for voice chat on several platforms. I can see Nintendo adding EEG headsets for ‘Pokemon’ titles, or Capcom for ‘Monster Hunter’.

In ‘Monster Hunter’, for example, not only would you need to kill a beast, skin it, take out your cooking spit and rotate the meat on the spit using tiny sub-menus, but you would also need to think “Cook… cook… cook…” Likewise, EEG could help increase the capable Actions Per Minute in the competitive ‘StarCraft’ scene. I would like to see an EEG headset bundled with an open-world game called ‘Thought Police, in which the player’s goal would be to become the lone non-conformist by exposing and eliminating other leaders of a revolutionary movement. In other words, the player moves around regarding and examining non-player characters, and thinking “Guilty” or “Innocent.” ‘Thought Police 2’ would evolve to just being a blatant rip-off of the movies ‘Carrie’ or ‘Firestarter’.

Even at its most basic application, these EEG devices add more to current gaming experiences than any 3D setup that I have used, and without the need for a specialized display. This alone leaves me to think that Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony will inevitably wind up introducing EEG as a part of a holiday craze.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

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