Friday, June 17, 2005

Some thoughts on thoughts

I have encountered a number of people who seem to believe that the revolutionary technology Nintendo has in store for us is actually to do with thoughts and brain waves. Based on the research experiments I linked to below, people on the Nintendo forum have come across a company called NeuroSky, which has already developed the same technology for the market. They even state on their website that they have an eye on the console business:

NeuroSky, a fabless semiconductor/module company, has developed a non-invasive neural sensor and signal processing technology that converts brainwaves and eye movements into useful electronic signals to communicate with a wide range of electronic devices, consoles, and computers.

A Whois search on Neurosky leads to a Korean company called Lims. They are even bolder in their assertions of what this technology can do:

Lims cooperates with Moscow University, KAIST, Choong Buk Technology University and several other academic institutes to integrate most up-to-date technology into our products. Lim's first product is neuro-headgear, which enables the users to control objects such as R/C toys wirelessly only with their EEG and EOG signals.

Now that sounds pretty bold, to be sure. They even back it up with some video clips. I have linked you to the smallest available size:

KBS broadcast (2,1 MB)
SBS broadcast (176 KB)
MBC broadcast (272 KB)
YTN broadcast (512 KB)

They all show pretty much the same: A guy wearing goggles with flashing diodes on, controlling a car with his thoughts, rather than a remote. It looks impressive, but my experience with this technology makes me slightly hesitant.

I have researched these projects for the television programme I work for. That is why I am familiar with the two research projects I mentioned in an earlier post. The Mind Games research group at the Media Lab Europe is one. The other is the Berlin brain computer interface at the FIRST institute in Germany.

I spoke to people on both projects and we eventually did some filming at the latter. So I have come to know this technology in detail. Here´s the reasons why it cannot be incorporated into a cutting edge game console at the moment:

* It does not work with every person, it only works for some.

* It takes about three hours of setting up for each individual player. They need to tune in to your brainwaves somehow.

* Your brainwaves can force no more than a simple decision between up or down, left or right or on and off. At the very most, a Pong style game would be thinkable. No more.

There were also some hints in Nintendo´s press conference that just wouldn´t fit with this kind of technology:

* "The revolutionary feature is nothing new", they said. "We just have not seen it applied to games." Well, THIS truly IS something new. Most people I speak to have never heard of this kind of stuff even existing.

* Reggie´s talk of "get ready to let your right brain go wild" hints at creating something, perhaps altering games somehow. That cannot be done with this kind of technology.

* The key to the revolutionary feature is "all access gaming". That makes no sense, regarding this technology.

Now, I know that these companies claim bold things and show impressive stuff. But is it truly ready to be implemented into games, as they seem to claim? I must doubt the accuracy of these claims, considering the two institutes I named above appear on a lower level of implementation. Yet they are associated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Fraunhofer group, respectively. Okay, so the MIT pulled the plug on their Media Lab in January. But I just don´t see how two research institutes could be lagging behind private enterprise.

Let´s assume there is a great deal of exaggeration involved on part of the Korean manufacturer. After all, they do have a product to sell. Well, they will at some time in the future.


pakstar said...

i wouldnt wan2 wear a helmet anyway

Anonymous said...

I think what Reggie could mean is that you could create music, edit pictures,etc. This would match up with the patents put that Nintendo has for the Revolution. One of which is a console application that allows one to create music; this could also be linked to Nintendo's upcoming DS title "Elektroplankton"

Falafelkid said...

Good point, anonymous. Electroplankton could be precisely the kind of application we might see for the Revolution. But its gameplay packaging, so to speak, would have to be fundamentally different. it would have to be more accessible and meaningful to people. Nintendo execs themselves said that Electroplankton would be something that most people won´t understand, but those who do would love it all the more. Revolution is all about ´all access gaming´, so let´s remember that point.

Marius said...

Just interested: which german tv programme do you work for? You living in Cologne, so... there are quite a handful.

Falafelkid said...

Interesting question. I work for the RTL2 newsroom. It´s not on your list there, because it had mainly entertainment shows on it. But if you scroll down to the bottom you´ll see Big Brother. It´s on the same channel. Where are you at?

Marius said...

Near HB, not associated with any tv programme, just interested in immersive gaming.

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