neurofeedback toys

So there's this Kurzweil vaporware from 1998 (I guess NeuroSonics is just a holding company for a patent):

Brain Generated Music:

The user attaches three disposal leads to her head. A personal computer then monitors the user's brain waves to determine her unique alpha wavelength. [...] Music is then generated by the computer, according to an algorithm that transforms the user's own brain-wave signal. [...] the fact that the sounds are synchronized to the user's own alpha wavelength to create a resonance with the user's own alpha rhythm also encourages alpha production.

The music itself feels like it is being generated from inside your mind. Interestingly, if you listen to a tape recording of your own brain-generated music when you are not hooked up to the computer, you do not experience the same sense of transcendence. Although the recorded BGM is based on your personal alpha wavelength, the recorded music was synchronized to the brain waves that were produced by your brain when the music was first generated, not to the brain waves that are produced while listening to the recording. You need to listen to "live" BGM to achieve the resonance effect.

And now there's this brand new vaporware:
Project Epoc is a headset that uses a set of sensors to tune into electric signals naturally produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expression. It connects wirelessly with all game platforms from consoles to PCs. Project Epoc now makes it possible for games to be controlled and influenced by the player's mind.

Are any of these electrical drugs actually on the market? Or does the fact that people have been playing with this stuff since the 70s and there are still no products more sophisticated than X-Ray Specs mean it has about the same mental effect as watching screen savers with your nose on the glass?

Still waiting for that Brainstorm / Strange Days tech... (Previously.)

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28 Responses:

  1. kfringe says:

    Interestingly, if you listen to a tape recording of your own brain-generated music when you are not in a state of chemically enhanced consciousness, you do not experience the same sense of transcendence. You also feel really fucking silly.

  2. bdu says:

    Well, if the new one manages to hit the market, it should be fairly easy to interface it to max/msp and turn it into a clone of the kurzweil idea.

    Not that this will happen, mind you, and not that anyone will care.

  3. mc_kingfish says:

    Oddly enough, I thought of "Strange Days" as soon as I saw the photo of the thrilling headgear.

  4. boonedog says:

    I seriously doubt that I can control my thoughts well enough to play a video game with them (re: Project Epoc). I can just see the other players getting pissed because I started daydreaming in the middle of a huge battle and my character suddenly starts writing a grocery list or wondering if he turned the coffee maker off.

  5. evan says:

    I played with a friend's headset that read brainwaves. They had a series of exercises to train you to use it. The first had you moving a pointer along a single axis (measuring one "wave"), then another had you move a pointer through a maze (two different dimensions). The first one wasn't too hard, but I could never figure out how to reliably move in that second dimension...

  6. ask rivetpanda about Project Epoc -- his game dev company is working with Emotiv. He says his dreads get in the way of the headset, sometimes.

    You should see the view from their offices in SOMA. Purty!

  7. rivetpanda says:

    It's not vaporware actually. : ) If you are curious come talk to me; I work with these guys.

  8. cdavies says:

    I saw a TV show, about 15 years ago now, where the presenter drove a full size car around at about 2 mph with using one of these things.

    Clearly, this is destined to be one of those things like speech recognition and flying cars. Sure, we can do it, but it's a bloody stupid idea.

    • dr_pipe says:

      speech recognition has gotten to the point where it's not bad. My pal who codes for Bittorrent had his wrists go to hell on him, but he can do all his coding now with speech recognition. The app is called dragon something or other, I think...

      And flying cars, come on. That's an awesome idea. We just need AI's to pilot them before they can be mass marketed.

      • lars_larsen says:

        "I went to the gym with Jim."

        I'd like to see what it makes of that.

      • editer says:

        Dragon Dictate is the name, I believe. I know a coder/admin who uses it as well and has for years.

        I once edited a book written with voice-recognition software; my boss asked me to keep track of homophone errors, and in a 16-chapter book I only found a dozen or so.

      • jkonrath says:

        A few years ago my cube-neighbor got Dragan and was writing marketecture papers for about a month with it. Drove me absolutely apeshit. I never knew when he was talking into his computer or trying to talk to me. Also when he got into the stuff with pseudocode and keywords, he had to spell everything out, and every other word was "strike that" so he could back up when he tried to say Servlet and it typed ceviche or something. He eventually gave up and moved to one of those chorded keyboards, which was much harder to use, but a lot quieter.

  9. ultranurd says:

    If it has transcranial in the name, it must be good!

  10. xthread says:

    The linguistics people can measure the process of humans recognizing speech...

    by watching electrical currents on the surface of the skull.

  11. lars_larsen says:

    The closest I've seen is a video game that comes with a skin galvanic response tester. Its a lot like myst, you have to calm down or get excited to pass certain tests. Overally very simplistic.

    The technology exists for biofeedback, there are people out there moving mouse pointers around with nothing more than a few leads on their scalp. You can even buy commercial wireless headbands that'll give you 2 channel brainwaves (left and right).

    There is plenty of evidence that sound frequency has an effect on brain frequency. I'm not sure if hearing the same frequency as your brainwaves will do it, but people have developed things like binaural beating and certain low frequency sounds that slow brain waves effectively.

    Real drugs are more fun.

    • catullus_5 says:

      The closest I've seen is a video game that comes with a skin galvanic response tester.

      Yeah, the Scientologists keep inviting me to play that one with them.

    • jwz says:
        Real drugs are more fun

      But how cool is a drug that might force you to upgrade your kernel first?

      • lars_larsen says:

        I'm all for downloading drugs, even if I have to compile them on a P90 first.

      • cwilllu says:

        'The hypothalamus surgery is complete; he'll come around around in a minute.'

        "Excellent. Now, reinstall linux on his box, and make sure you redirect kernel panic messages to the implant."


        "Do it!"

    • ommadawn says:

      Yup, it's called Journey to Wild Divine ( Cute game, but perhaps more useful they have some training software, more like brain workout than game.

      Also, Neurosonics was big in "mind machines" (i.e. light and sound machines) a few years ago, not just a holding company as far as I knew.

      • lars_larsen says:

        Thanks for the link. Its been awhile since I've seen that. Seems like it would be good for practicing to defeat polygraphs. :)

        I think there is a market for a real EEG biofeedback controlled game. The hardware is cheap. I don't see why they haven't done it sooner. The software is no more complex than the visualization plugins for mp3 players. Do an FFT and then do something fancy with the spectrograph.

        I saw a study once that used it to treat ADD kids. I bet it could help with actual diseases like epilepsy too.

        Point being, the technology has been there a long time. Both to read your level of mental relaxation and to change it. We just don't have a social or economic need to deploy it to the masses. *shrug*

  12. recursive says:

    I wonder if it's tough bringing an inexpensive product like this to market due to issues with FDA et. al. classifying it as a "medical device" or some such nonsense.

    IMHO, as long as it's battery powered and its only links to other stuff is RF or infrared, the real safety issues of a device with electrodes on the skin are fairly minimal.

    • ommadawn says:

      Light and sound machines have somehow been grandfathered because they existed before the FDA regs that might have regulated them. Of course, they still have to be really careful about what medical claims they make about it.

      And non-invasive things can still be harmful, particularly flashy lights on epileptics.

  13. taiganaut says:

    Check out OpenEEG. Somebody wrote a master's thesis which involved a simple game that could be played using an OpenEEG as a controller.

    • cadmus says:

      OpenEEG is about ten years behind from what I can see. I was very excited about it until I actually looked at what can be done with it versus what I could buy (kind of like most open source, actually).

  14. Kurzweil's a futurist -- isn't "think up vaporware and wax rhapsodic about it" pretty much the job description for futurist?

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