NeuroSky’s Mindwave could offer new insights to developers

Jun 9, 2011
Tech

I assured Johnny Liu, a representative I spoke with from NeuroSky this week during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, that writers tend to lose our math skills because we don’t really need to use them all that often. That was how I explained away my paltry score when I ran his demo of […]

I assured Johnny Liu, a representative I spoke with from NeuroSky this week during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, that writers tend to lose our math skills because we don’t really need to use them all that often.

That was how I explained away my paltry score when I ran his demo of Speed Math, a tool that requires users to blast through a handful of low-level math problems as quickly and accurately as possible. Well, that and nerves at showing someone I’d only just met how bad my math skills actually can be under pressure.

I was running the Speed Math test while wearing NeuroSky’s Mindwave device. It’s a strange headset that fits around the top of the skull, clips on to the ear, and measures brainwaves; in the case of Speed Math, it was supposed to keep an eye on my level of focus as I made a fool of myself trying to do second-grade math problems under the gun. As Liu explained it as the Mindwave and Speed Math graphed my results, the Mindwave was displaying where I struggled with a problem and where the response was basically reflex.

That information could be used a variety of ways, Liu said, including in education and video game development, both on PCs and consoles and in the mobile sphere. It can show developers and teachers exactly where a person has trouble with a given task, be it long division or a long boss fight.

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The possibilities for app development with the use of the Mindwave are definitely interesting. Liu gave an example of one way the device and its technology could be applied to iOS: Imagine playing Angry Birds, he said, and the force behind the birds you sling is determined by how hard you concentrate. That alone sounds pretty cool.

But Mindwave probably has better uses in helping developers fine-tune how people use their apps. The technology basically is a focus test of where an app, or a piece of software, or a teaching method gets hazy and forces users to muddle through. By identifying those trouble spots, be they in games or in the tutorials for photography apps or what have you, developers can create better experiences. Better experiences mean better reviews and more excitement about their apps, and that leads to more sales in general.

Liu said NeuroSky already has developer API tools available for free on its website, store.neurosky.com, for use with the Mindwave, and new tools are set to come out this summer. The device itself is available on the store as well, and runs $100. It’ll be up to developers to find interesting ways to use the technology, but the fact that it exists as a tool seems like it could lead to yet more great innovations in the field of mobile app and game development. We might not be ready to control games with our minds (although it sounds like, to an extent, we could), but tools like Mindwave seem to be able to make the ease and intuitiveness of the mobile app experience even more powerful and streamlined.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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