Alternate interfaces. Touchscreens are so passé.

13 Aug

I can read your brainwaves. It’s the latest fad in the interaction world. Why control something with your hands when you can just think about it instead.

Because it’s quite tricky mainly. To get any fine movements in a game environment with a headset is very hard. Concerntrating only just enough to move something is a very fine line between not thinking at all and thinking very hard.

There is one main company, Emotiv, who develop headsets for developer useage. They create very high end headsets that read all sorts of values incredibly accurately and they even give you software to make games with them. Proper games too in 3D and everything. It’s all rather swish, but very expensive. It runs around £200 for the headset alone. Ouch. You also need to train the headset to your way of thinking and this takes time. This is something that I can’t be having. For a grad show where different people will be using it, I can’t have people sitting around training up the system before each use, how crap is that?

There are some interesting examples Emotiv use. Their basic example is a cube that you can push away from you by thinking about pushing the cube and pull the cube by thinking about it. This is basically there to help you train yourself to work the headset. This raises an interesting point for me, training your mind to play a game seems a little silly really. Why isn’t the headset being used in gaming situations but in a more passive way. My concept builds off of this idea, but of course on the cheap and with massive flair.

The alternative cheap method, to use a toy. There are two toys on the market that use brainwave headsets as the base for the game. They both use the Emotiv headset as the starting point but they change most of it so that it only outputs basic values. The one that ships in the UK is the star wars force trainer. Only cost me £30 too. With a little digging around online, I found others who had successfully cracked it and got it outputting through an arduino.

It turns out that they left two pins in the toy from testing that outputs the values through serial pins. Fantastic! Someone also has kindly written the arduino code to convert the pin values to useful numbers and posted it online, I didn’t have to do any work at all, wonderful, makes my day easier.

Anyway, the whole reason I want to use a headset is to use it in a more passive way like I mentioned previously. So, instead of controlling a character or movements in a game, I want to use the headset to control atmosphere. This is achieved by making the user think about other things and the headset is just something they wear rather than concerntrate on using. So, for example, for my escape the room game idea, the player would wear the headset during the whole game. The players thoughts would directly control the lights and music around the room. When the player concentrates, the lights will dim and the music gets more intense, when they stop concentrating, the lights brighten and music lightens. This directly reflects on puzzles the player is trying to solve.

I think this would be a much more interesting use of a mind reading headset as it stops becoming a headache with a huge learning curve and more of an ambient experience controlled by your thoughts. Sure it isn’t the most in your face use of this tech, but it is probably the most sensible since it would actually fit the constraints of the technology and not trying to pretend that its far better than it is.

I can read the values in flash though, and then levitate a virtual ball, so there may be something there. Merging AR and thought control? There’s a possibility there, but exactly what that is, I don’t know.



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