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MindWave, a $99 brainwave sensor, now on sale

It seems like some kind of new brainwave scanning device is presented at every GDC, and we continuously hear about how the medical-tech-made-consumer product will change the way we interact with games (and our own minds!). Even Valve has mentioned that it's interested in using biometrics in games, but how many have actually considered sitting on the couch with an EEG strapped across their temples? We haven't, but NeuroSky's MindWave - the company's first consumer product - seeks to change that.

MindWave is an EEG headpiece which wirelessly communicates with a Mac or PC via a wireless USB plug-in. The device measures brainwave impulses from the forehead with "research grade precision," and passes them through algorithms to determine mental states like "attention" and "relaxation."

The device (among other brainwave-sensing devices)is already the focus of many consumer-focused developers, both with entertainment-oriented and practical goals. Brain Athlete (pictured above), for example, purports to use brainwave data to help athletes improve their mental conditioning. The software is already available in Japan, and will be released in the US within the next couple of months.

On the entertainment side, UK-based developer MyndPlaydemonstrated two interactive films which adjust their outcomes according to the MindWave-wearing viewer's mental reactions.

Above: A promotional video for Myndplay

Finally, in the research department, tech company Puzzlebox showed off Jigsaw, which utilizes MindWave to stream real-time brainwave visualizations over games, helping inform developers' decisions.

"Puzzlebox Jigsaw enables designers to adjust gameplay for maximum impact, evaluate reactions to plot and character development, streamline play testing, and accelerate time-to-market," reads a statement from the company.

The device is now being sold online for $99.95, and includes 10 educational and entertainment applications. The demos I saw were interesting (I didn't have a chance to try it out myself), but I'm not sure that the current software applications are relevant to the average game consumer. Still, as devices like MindWave become more accessible, more developers are likely to begin working with them. If you've always wanted to see your mental state represented as green and red lines a graph, check out the product in NeuroSky's store.

Mar 2, 2011

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer