As it turns out, having super powers isn’t only for mutants and aliens anymore.  You too can control things with your mind!  A number of these products are only available in Japan sadly, but have plans to be sold in the US in the future.  Not to sure about the cat ears though. But regardless, the science fiction stuff I’ve only dreamed about is actually here.  So I don’t think I can call it sci-fi any more and that’s slightly confusing because I’ve been thinking of it as such for years. 

Regardless, things are progressing fast nowadays. Touchscreen are still new, but even they may be obsolete in the next ten years to be replaced by direct brain-computer interfaces controlled by thought. It's certainly in interesting prospect.

1.     NeuroSky

Neurosky is a simple headset that looks a lot like what you would expect to see call center woNeuroSky headsetCredit: to wear.  Except, all chrome and oozing cool.  The system is actually the basis for a lot of other mind controlled products, but still manages to bring something of its own to the table.

Game scenarios change depending on how you are reacting to them.

So, for example, if you’re scared that an opponent in a game is going to kill you.  NeuroSky recognizes that and has you die. On the other hand, if you aren’t scared you’ll have the ability to win the fight.  Similarly, the more you focus on a target, say the center pin in a bowling game, the closer your efforts to hit it will be. 

Games are available as computer applications that use the headset as a controller.  Not all apps are games however.  Some are study and research tools, aiming to improve a user's ability to succedded at a variety of tasks and help a user learn to control his or her own mind to improve performance.

2.     Cat Ears

I don’t think I can say anything about this, except for the fact that I’m sure there’s a niche market for them.  They’d be amazing for Halloween. I hope they come over to the US quickly because, and I feel slightly guilty for say this, because I kinda want a pair.  If only to attract stares when walking about town.

3.     The Force Trainer Star Wars: The Force TrainerCredit:

When I first saw the commercial for this I was so excited.  I’m a huge Star Wars fan and the possibility that I could actually move things with my mind had me gaping at the TV and excited for ages.  This was the first time I had heard of such a thing. Plus, it includes phrases from Yoda. What’s not to love?

The mechanics of this is pretty simple – the headgear takes note of when you’re concentrating and the toy levitates a ball as a result, varying the height depending on how hard you're concentrating. There are 15 levels of “Force training”, though I’m not too sure how that works.  I had no idea there were that many levels of concentration, though it'd be nice to actually prove that you're a Jedi Master instead of just saying it when you dress up for conventions or Halloween.

MindflexCredit:     Mindflex

Mattel’s game works similarly to the Force Trainer in that the head set measures concentration levels and turns that into a floating ball.  With Mindflex however, you don’t just raise it up and down; you build an obstacle course and guide the ball through it.

The toy comes with a kit of potential obstacles, so you can build hundreds of different courses. And it’s not single player.  While those involved do have to take turns wearing the headset, it’s possible to race against others’ times. There are also other ways to play involving maneuvering around obstacle courses, escaping ‘danger zones’, and tagging lights similar to the electronic version of Simon Says.

5.     Mindball

MindballCredit: Pong, sorta.  In this Swedish game, two players wear headbands that record brain activity, which is then translated into moving the ball between them.  There are two types of games, forcing the ball into your opponent’s goal or encouraging it to land in yours. In the first, the player with the most relaxed mind wins, while in the second the player with the most active brainwaves succeeds.

The funny thing is, the product is being used in companies abroad to help employees perform better and in schools to help children learn to focus. I can certainly think of less entertaining ways to get such results.

6.     InteraXon

This is a similar company to NeuroSky based out of Toronto, who instead of creating products is more focused on public displays showcasing what brain reading technology can do.  The headgear is a little less obvious here as it looks more like a sweatband than a singer’s stage mike.  However, they have worked together with software companies to develop games for the iPad2 using the system.


7.     Prosthetic Limbs

There has been a lot of research into developing prosthetic limbs that can be mentally controlled, especially arms with a fully functional hand as arms perform more tasks than prosthetic legs.  It has always been a hard task, as not using nerves usually results in the inability to feel them later in life, but being outfitted with mentally controlled limbs can prevent this. Ideally, mind controlled prosthetic limbs could remove any disadvantage those without an arm or leg have in achieving a normal daily life.

8.  Cars

While not commercially viable, yet, AutoNOMOS Labs is working on “Braindriver”, a computer system that will allow users to drive a car with their thoughts.  At this point, the system can differentiate between right and left as well as accelerating and decelerating, but there is a bit of a delay which prevents Braindriver from being able to be used safely in real life conditions. The project is part of the Artificial Intelligence Group of the Freie Universität Berlin.