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Playing Games With One's Brainwaves 90

PolloDiablo writes "Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have reported success with recording the signals a brain sends out to the other parts of the body and using them to play a game. The subjects had to move a cursor towards a target in a one-dimensional environment without using any bodypart, just pure brainpower. One subject had a success rate of 100%. This could prove a breakthrough in the use of prosthetics. The next step is repeating the same test in a 2-dimensional environment. Similar tests have been done with monkeys before but never with humans."
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Playing Games With One's Brainwaves

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  • beware (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @05:39PM (#9392495)
    Make sure your developers aren't Russian, else you'll need to think in Russian to fire your weapons, and that'd suck.

    How do you say 'railgun' in Russian, anyway?
    • Re:beware (Score:3, Funny)

      by wakejagr ( 781977 )
      why'd you go and mention Russia?

      now, the "In Soviet Union..." jokes will start. an article about using thoughts to control games makes this just too easy.

      then, some clever person will point out that Russia != Soviet Union, and will get moded funny.

      you've started something bad, my friend.

    • ... move a cursor ... without using any bodypart ...

      Not exactly what the doctor ordered for geeks who need to get out more already? :-P
    • Ummm...strudel?
    • Re:beware (Score:3, Funny)

      by dunkelfalke ( 91624 )
      >How do you say 'railgun' in Russian, anyway?

      elektromagnitnaya pushka
    • Re:beware (Score:3, Funny)

      by Frizzle Fry ( 149026 )
      How do you say 'railgun' in Russian, anyway?

      Actually, in Russian 'railgun' says YOU.
    • To any who may have missed the joke, this was a reference to the old movie Firefox [] where an American has to bring a high tech jet back from Russia to the States. Unfortunately for him, the controls which use thought input are in Russian, and there is a scene in which he can't get his rear weapons to fire because he can't remember the Russian for it.

      Good classic movie, I'll need to rent it again soon.

    • What? You mean I don't have to think in Russian to surf the web?

      btw. what is Russian for ad-block image?

    • I don't know, but forget weapons. What about Russian internet browsers? How do you say back in Russian?
  • But how generally applicable is this? Obviously we will need to approach near-100% accuracy to make anything useful of it, but it makes me wonder if it's possible to have the machine just work for everybody, or will it need to be trained to your brain before it can be of use?
    • You'd need to recalibrate it for every user.
      The complexity of a human brain is absolutely
      staggering, and creating a fast auto-calibrating
      'brainreader' would need so much data about
      different 'possible' user brainwave patterns
      that it at the moment would be nigh impossible.
      At the moment, anyway.
      • Not really.

        While the actual brainwaves are complex, the signals sent out through the nerves are simple digital pulses that could easily be read and interpreted.

        You could alias the moving of an index finger to the movement of your character on screen, and make various thumb movements into weapon controls.

        • I don't know about that one. I'm pretty sure even the electrical impulses (or their sequencing etc.) vary slightly from person to person (similarly, the 'brainwaves' don't really differ in normal persons, but where they occur, how they tour to get certain information etc. may be radically different).

          And, you know, as much as I hate to say this postmortem, Reagan wasn't infallible, and that particular quote is idiotic. I don't think Lenin or Mao understood communism :)
          • Well there would be a bit of tuning involved, but really nerve signals are simple.

            Each nerve goes to a specific muscle fiber.
            To move a muscle thousands of pulses are sent to various muscle fibers in the muscle. If you make a device that can monitor the nerve pulses, and have the person make various hand and arm movements. You can quickly map out the functions of the nerves for that person.
  • Atari was working on this at one point, when their business model started to tank in the mid 80s. It's not only not new, it's really really not new. And I can't imagine they were using monkeys for their games, because the SPCA has ensured that even monkeys don't have to play that godawful E.T. title they tried to push out.
  • Just yesterday I was advising a coworker about his repetitive strain injury. He said he gamed a lot, and I told him that gaming (e.g. loads of rapid mouseclicks under stress) can be a factor. I'm afflicted with RSI crap to the point where I no longer game much, if at all. I can't wait for this brain wave kind of technology to be polished so I can play Far Cry, Half Life 2, etc. without worrying about pain.
  • to see how this technology will migrate to prosthetics, see the anime Angelic Layer ;)

    P.S. other two references I can remember from the top of my head are Playstation commercial (guessing that they will have a brain-controlled PS sometime in the future) and a gaming console in Cowboy Bebop
  • by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @06:05PM (#9392707) Journal
    I seem to remember seeing pictures demonstrating one-dimensional cursor movement using the human mind years ago. I'm confident that I'm not imagining things.
    • by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @06:17PM (#9392802) Journal
      This seems to have been done many times before. This article [] from August 2002 says:
      The next step gets scary. EEG (electroencephalogram) measures brain activity. So far in early experiments, NASA has been able to get volunteers to move a cursor on the screen merely by thinking left or right, up or down. This goes beyond bio feedback, Wheeler was quick to add.
      What I saw was one dimensional, and I think I saw it on the Discovery Channel back in the day, as in 2001 or before.
    • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @07:49PM (#9393486) Homepage Journal
      If you read the article, you'll note that the researchers aren't using EEG, which is part of the reference you include in your seperate post.

      The difference between an EEG and the technique they use in this study is invasiveness - EEGs are Non-Invasive, that is, they don't need to stick anything into your head (they attach electrodes at various points on the skull corresponding to lobes of the brain) - this study uses the ECoG, a more invasive technique for monitoring brain activity.

      Note that the "breakthrough" was in acquisition of the task. This increased acquisition level may lead to much faster experimentation. Of course, the acquisition comes at a cost - invasive surgery.

      Just thought I'd keep you up to article, there. =)
  • Emotions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Gary Destruction ( 683101 ) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @06:12PM (#9392763) Journal
    Maybe emotions could be used to help provide movement as well. An intense emotion such as anger has been known to motivate people.
    • Re:Emotions (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by orthogonal ( 588627 )
      Maybe emotions could be used to help provide movement as well. An intense emotion such as anger has been known to motivate people.

      Fuck off, pig!

      • Excuse me? Where do you get off calling me a pig? If you're pissed off enough, you'd be suprised how much energy you can build up inside. And that energy can be put to constructive use.
        • Excuse me? Where do you get off calling me a pig? If you're pissed off enough, you'd be suprised (sic) how much energy you can build up inside. And that energy can be put to constructive use.

          Calm down, friend. It was a self-referential joke; I was responding to your comment about anger with an angry comment. Admittedly it was a subtle (or lame) joke.

          So don't just get pissed at me -- put that energy to constructive use! ;)
    • Music to suit and better your current
      emotional state! Yeah! This could be
      great! Think about it; train your
      computer to know your emotions, and
      which type of music works to pick you
      up when you're down and to keep you
      happy when you are - schweetness!
      (And I don't just mean "Emotion-
      playslists", more interactive inter-
      active music)
  • How big is a cursor in 1-D on an 800x600 screen? I must not be understanding this correctly. Does that mean the cursor could only move in two directions to begin with?
    • I haven't read the article, God forbid, but it probably means only left and right, or only up and down.
  • activity-data taken invasively right from the brain surface

    I don't think that extra millisecond of response time in your favorite videogame is worth invasive brain surgery.

    My point is, this sounds incredible, however the topic is slightly misleading; this is not yet ready as a practical application because it does require brain surgery, and I for one am not in the mood to have an assortment of wires placed on the surface of my brain.
  • by blunte ( 183182 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @06:17PM (#9392801)
    it's much easier to do invasively than non-invasively, as they state. in this article they sort of market invasive as being superior, but that depends on your perspective. it is superior in its ease of understanding signals, but it is inferior to those who object to direct tinkering with the brain.

    ideally we could accurately decipher signals non-invasively to get the same result. invasive is inherently more dangerous, and certainly more complicated from a medical point of view.

    • Their target of research is for better controlled prostetics, being invasive wouldn't be an issue. This way someone could control their robotic arm by having the wires directly embedded somewhere in their body instead of some external sensors strapped on somewhere that could move and not read correctly.

      For you or I sticking wires into our brains just to play video games by thinking of them would be a bit extreme. For people who have no hands to play with, it's a step in the direction of unobtrusive natur
  • Of course, none of this will do us any good until developers finally adopt the 1DGSC recommendations (One Dimensional Gaming Standards Committee []).

    As it is now, all those 1-D games that we all know and love each operate on an entire different API! In one game it's all Up and Down. In another it's North/South... or +/-. Madness, I say!

  • then we can play theremins with our Minds!
    • (It was a surprise, after a play about the inventor)
      The music was OK (I take it, as the sound technician didn't fathom
      that there was an upper limit to the 'enjoyable' portion of the
      decibel scale - ow!)
      It was some world-renowned russian woman, who had been taught
      by Lev himself, apparently (I seem to recall, at any rate)
  • Does anyone know how they can get there hands on this kind of equipment without selling their houses or cars?

    For a few months now I keep thinking of the possiblity of googling by thought. If you can just get two different kinds of signals out, you've got morse code automatically.

    Combine that with some of those lasers that shine images directly on your retinas that we hear about from time-to-time, and you'd have a real winner. Think of the productivity gains (or losses from having almost-in-brain IM serv
  • Man I hate when they mess with my brainwaves. I always start singing folk songs.

    B. Rodriquez
  • The Other 90%? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tchuladdiass ( 174342 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @06:52PM (#9393084) Homepage
    I remember picking up something back a while ago, from a company called "The Other 90% Technologies" that used an electrode you attach to a finger to control the games. It was basically a downhill slalom skiing game. You had to "think hard right" and "relax left" in order to move the playing piece. I couldn't quite get the hang of it, and ended up giving the thing away. Cost was around $30 or so.
    • Thats IT!!!
      Every time I hear about this type of thing I can remember trying out a demo of exactly what you described but I could never remember the name of the company that produced it.
      Thank you for saving me from the nagging fear of Alzheimer's.
  • Being able to browse the web with both our hands free. ;)
  • Oh come on this technology has been around for years now. I seen countless "tech" programs visiting research centers and the presenter being trained to do something just by thinking. Move a cursor, click an onscreen button. Even play some extremely primitive games. the methods varied greatly, from simple diodes placed on the head to putting it into one of giant body scanners to implants.

    I know americans think the rest of the world means alaska but this is nothing new. We are all just waiting for someone to

  • Wouldn't a nerve / electronics interface be more efficient?
    Ie, something you can attach to a nerve either directly or indirectly as an imput device. Picture typing without a keyboard as a device in your arm captures the signals to your fingers and interprets them. It should be possible to train your brain and the input device to accept more signals faster than is currently possible through a keyboard.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When I was a kid, adults used to say that you'd go blind if you kept playing with your brainwaves.
  • by Colazar ( 707548 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @08:29PM (#9393727)
    Back in 88, I saw a demo in a graduate level EE class done by an engineering student who was also a musician. He had put together a system where he could change the speaker that the music he played came out of by thinking directionally, and he could change the synthesizer instrument setting by thinking of a particular color (red = trumpet, white = flute, for instance).

    • I'd like to know the accuracy. Also, I doubt it was just thinking of a color. Some subconscious other action may have accompanied it (maybe even a scam). You'd have to make it work immediately with other people (which is something we are very far from--picking out something subjective like that).
      • I can't give you technical details, since I wasn't actually taking the class; I was the cameraman at the school TV station. (Most of the upper level engineering classes were videotaped so that they could be viewed later.)

        Accuracy was (apparently) good, speed was slow. He only demoed it on himself, and I don't think it would have worked for anyone else. You may well be right that something other than color was being picked up on, but on the other hand he only used a few widely divergent colors (red and blue

  • All humans are already disabled. Why must we thirst, age, and poo? Transhumanism comes down to I/O to consciousness, and this is a major step that way. I for one am glad the disabled are testing the prototypes, but I'll be first in line to have it done no matter how "normal" I am.
  • My experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jakek101 ( 652878 )
    I've actually played a rudimentery version of this. It was a skiing game where you thought "center" to center yourself and left or right to move left and right. I also once played a Pacman game where the more of a certain type of brain wave you had the faster Pacman went. I became quite good at this.
    • Re:My experience (Score:2, Interesting)

      by yRabbit ( 625397 )
      I believe it was on The Learning Channel (or Discovery), one show they had was about a woman who was practicing for a luge. The luge went up too high and she hit her head on part of the track.
      After that, she had seizures sometimes.. I guess her brainwaves were somehow messed up.
      Anyways, using a game in which there were three rockets, with her only control being her brain, she had to make one rocket go forward but not the other two. It helped her train her brain to use certain waves more. It eventually st
      • Sounds like the same kind of program. I also saw the version with just bars for the brainwaves, and those rockets probably each represnted a type of wave.
  • Something very similar to this seems to have already been done. Back in 2000, the Swedish Interactive Insititute [] developed a game they called BrainBall []. The game used the brain waves of the contestants to move a ball back and forth a table. The one with the least brain activity would win.

    It was even covered on Slashdot [].
  • Obviously it's just a first step. But the experience of the Lumiere brothers comes to my mind relating to the introduction of a new technology. People ran away when the saw the train coming towards them rather than enjoying the show.

    It's a matter of refining and improving the technology by making a lot of trials and errors.

    Let's see, in facts, what is going to happen with a 2D game.

    What if brain-control is support by eye beam recognization and retina scan?

    I have collected some quotes about the main

  • Similar tests have been done with monkeys before
    And guess how the sharks with frickin' laser beams on their head shoot those lasers.
  • Ok, I'm sick of reading about them testing this junk on chimps and people in labs.

    When can I buy a biofeedback/thought controlled game for my computer or PS2? I would buy it even if the controller was as expensive as the one for Steel Battalion, at least it would be really unique and a new way to play.

  • Pretty soon we'll just be lying in bed with IVs for food and matrix-like things hooked up to our brain.... oh yeah
  • A group of grad students at the Entertainment Technology Center [] at Carnegie Mellon University did a somewhat similar project last semester called AugCog (Augmented Cognition) []. The main purpose was for military applications, as it was funded by DARPA, but they also did a bunch of mini-projects on the side that had Entertainment Applications. An interesting note about this project also is that the faculty advisor for this project was Jesse Schell, the new head of the International Game Developers Associatio []
  • The thought input mechanism would require some safe-control mechanism (like google's safe search). Elsewise, we would be getting characters doing some strange and perverted things...
  • Even older stuff (Score:2, Interesting)

    I saw something like this in the 80s at the local Amiga store (Yes we had a local Amiga store!). They had a game that came with a head strap. The game consisted of bubbles that floated from the bottom of the screen to the top the more relaxed you became the bubbles would sink the more tense the bubbles would rise and pop. I saw some one play for about 15 minutes he thought he had it down to a science.... when he left the guys running the store said "hey this head set thing needs bateries that guys been w
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The game of playing games with one's brainwaves already exists. It's called "Girlfriend". When you start playing the game, it's really easy and fun. Brainwaves, coupled with alcohol, help you cross the bar and talk a good game. They get you first the first few weeks of a relationship. Then they start asking questions like "Do you think she looks better than me?" or "Do I look fat?" and your brainwaves are likely to fail you. Hopefully they've got these limitations worked out in this new version.
  • We're all curious about the holes ancient Egyptians had drilled in the heads of various patients for no apparent reason, I wonder what future generations will say about these skeletons?
  • As far as gaming goes I have a feeling it'll be very difficult to teach yourself to THINK the correct thought for complex games. We're so used to responding directly with our hands (and feet) in games that I feel it will be quit difficult to make the transition. However as far as replacing limbs for amputee's seems like a more practical application. Playing a game with your mind seems more feasible if you hvae direct input from the game into your mind (not via eyes/ears).. Then again I've never tried such g

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