You sit down, turn on the game console, pick up a wireless controller, and wait for the system to warm up. You’re ready to game. Well, maybe that’s how it will be for now, but in the near future gaming could potentially be vastly different. You will sit down, put on your headset, and instantaneously use your thoughts to control the game. Brain computer-interface (BCI) has many medical applications, but what about its application in the entertainment industry, specifically in gaming? Last year, Neurable, a startup launched by CEO Ramses Alcaide, came out with the game Awakening, which was premiered as a demo at the Siggraph conference, a tech conference on interactive technology and computer animation. Awakening was the first marketable virtual reality (VR) video game controlled solely by your mind.
The actual technology used in this game is fascinating, combining brain-computer interface and virtual reality. The headband is non-invasive and consists of seven strategically placed EEG electrodes; the headband itself is also attached to VR goggles from HTC, a consumer electronics company. In other words, the EEG-based system analyzes your brain waves and connects the results to a software that interprets the signal and produces a specific outcome in the game. Alcaide equates the technology with providing your brain with its own computer mouse, so that you can scroll among objects in the virtual reality room and select the object that you want to “pick up.”
As always, there is the problem of background noise in EEG recordings. Background noise is everything picked up as a signal that does not actually come from the brain. To distinguish from such background noise, the technology uses machine learning algorithms to pick up on participant behavior and thus better understand player intentions, while also learning to ignore the background noise. This machine learning is utilized through a short training session before the player actually starts playing the game. The training session helps the headset recognize and learn what signals a person produces when they focus on a particular VR object. The session consists of a light bouncing around the VR room and a small, colored, virtual reality ball placed in front of you; you are asked to focus on the ball so that when the light hits the ball, your brain automatically produces an event-
related potential (a specific brain signal that directly arises