Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Transport Potentials of Mindflex

One of the first widely known consumer technologies to use electroencephalography (EEG) is the Mattel Mindflex. The device allows the wearer of a special headset to control the motor of a little fan that levitates a ball through a number of different obstacles. How does it work? The device reads brain activity and interprets it into an electrical signal. While commercial EEG headsets have been patented and are available the Mindflex makes this technology affordable and also, albeit mildly, fun.
Of course, circuit benders have been quick to experiment with the devices. One notorious 'mod' is the Harcos Labs' hacked Mindflex that offers volunteers a not-so-mild electric shock when the wearer of the headset focuses/loses concentration. Slashgear 5 March 2010 In a similar fashion Robert Schneider has hacked the Mindflex into the Teletron to create a musical controller for synthesizers, which allows control over pitch through brain activity. Gadgetell 8 September 2010 And a student at Georgia Tech in the US, Hunter Scott, has created from a Star Wars EEG toy - very similar to the Mindflex - a sample-playing instrument called the Mental Note. Interestingly, this toy includes a serial out port left over from the development stage on the circuit-board that easily interfaces with computers.

More mainstream applications are also being prototyped. Emotiv systems have pioneered the Epoc: a brainwave interface for computers. Similarly, the PLX Devices XWave makes it possible to control an iPhone through your thoughts and purchase tailored apps as they are developed.

There are also many travel technologies around us that could be altered to work with brain activity: traffic crossings, car-doors, the play/stop button on music players. The altering of the built environment to interact with the headsets could open up a whole new realm of possibilities in terms of interactivity (and inactivity!). More ambitiously the same technology developed in the Mindflex is being prototyped to control helicopters and other airborne vehicles. Flight Global 20 September 2010 As EEG technology becomes further exploited in novelty consumer devices as well as gaming and computing, unintended transport and travel consequences are bound to emerge. The next gen of these products could be imagined to translate signals from not only brain activity, but moods.

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