The Corner

Strike Your Sith — Without a Joystick

Now this sounds pretty cool:

A convincing twin of Darth Vader stalks the beige cubicles of a Silicon Valley office, complete with ominous black mask, cape and light saber. But this is no chintzy Halloween costume. It’s a prototype, years in the making, of a toy that incorporates brain wave-reading technology.

Behind the mask is a sensor that touches the user’s forehead and reads the brain’s electrical signals, then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the saber, which lights up when the user is concentrating. The player maintains focus by channeling thoughts on any fixed mental image, or thinking specifically about keeping the light sword on. When the mind wanders, the wand goes dark.

Engineers at NeuroSky Inc. have big plans for brain wave-reading toys and video games. They say the simple Darth Vader game — a relatively crude biofeedback device cloaked in gimmicky garb — portends the coming of more sophisticated devices that could revolutionize the way people play.

Technology from NeuroSky and other startups could make video games more mentally stimulating and realistic. It could even enable players to control video game characters or avatars in virtual worlds with nothing but their thoughts.

The article suggests that such enhanced gaming technologies could “boost mental focus and help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and mood disorders.” Great, but when these wondrous games arrive, please don’t tell my kids. I certainly don’t want to hear yet another reason why they should slay trolls, conquer Gaul, or dogfight with the Red Baron instead of going outside.

(That’s so I can have a turn. . .)

John Hood — John Hood is president of the John William Pope Foundation, a Raleigh-based grantmaker that supports public policy organizations, educational institutions, arts and cultural programs, and humanitarian relief in North Carolina ...

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