Join 3,411 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Now you, too, can become a Jedi!
June 27, 2009 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever dreamed of moving an object with the power of your mind? Mindflex, the new mental acuity game from Mattel, makes that dream a reality. A lightweight headset containing sensors for the forehead and earlobes measures your brainwave activity. When you focus your concentration, a small foam ball will rise on a gentle stream of air. Relax your thoughts and the ball will descend. By using a combination of physical and mental coordination, you must then guide the ball through a customizable obstacle course, the various obstacles can be repositioned into many different configurations.

From Nar William's (of The Science of Movies) blog.
posted by litterateur (39 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Looks gimmicky but fun. I'd want to give it a try, but $80 is a bit much.
posted by LSK at 10:28 PM on June 27, 2009


Video from the CES
posted by mhjb at 10:31 PM on June 27, 2009


I have a small boy who would love to control his environment by flexing his will. This toy might let me do laundry.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:34 PM on June 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I used a combination of physical and mental coordination to compose and post this snark.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:39 PM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


so what does it mean to 'focus'? do brainwaves altar in a recognizable pattern or something?
posted by Think_Long at 10:43 PM on June 27, 2009


Rather than create a generation of focused meditators, this will come to nothing. Look at the flood of kids taking karate lessons. Did we ever get to see any great karate fights in school? You would think that there would be some amazing battles but there weren't. Kids will just take this and use it to find porn on the internet somehow.
posted by mecran01 at 10:44 PM on June 27, 2009 [15 favorites]


I call BS on brainwaves. Likely works like this gadget. Responds to subtle facial movements.
At 80 bucks it's more of a wallet flexing game.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:55 PM on June 27, 2009


WARNING:
CHOKING HAZARD
-- Toy contains a marble. Not for children under 3 yrs.
CHOKING HAZARD -- Children under 8 yrs. can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision required. Keep uninflated balloons from children. Discard broken balloons at once.
CHOKING HAZARD -- Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.
CHOKING HAZARD -- Toy contains a small ball. Not for children under 3 yrs.
CHOKING HAZARD -- Toy may be a total let-down.
CHOKING HAZARD -- If your son happens to be Anthony Fremont, or anything like that darling boy, we hold no liability for his latent mental capabilities that may or may not be released with this product.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:55 PM on June 27, 2009


Looks gimmicky but fun. I'd want to give it a try, but $80 is a bit much.

http://www.emotiv.com/

$300
posted by prak at 10:57 PM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I am going to type the rest of this comment using only my mind:
posted by double block and bleed at 11:08 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


First you're levitating a foam ball, then you end up leveling Neo-Tokyo...
posted by FireballForever at 11:24 PM on June 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


Call me when it's hooked up to some tele-dildonics.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:59 AM on June 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whaddya bet there's at least an indirect military connection to this, in that they probably want a nice crop of young people trained in using this interface intuitively? À la Ender's Game.
posted by XMLicious at 1:29 AM on June 28, 2009


Yes, but does it clear your engrams? Didn't think so.
posted by fatllama at 2:04 AM on June 28, 2009


Those calling BS on the brainwaves should look at this. Apparently it really is using brainwave detection in a neurofeedback-y manner. I think the biggest weakness this thing looks like having is that keeping a ball stably within a puff of air requires control of more than just the puff of air. This is presumably a more realistic implementation of the technology at that level, but it would pall very soon, I imagine. This $200 mind-controlled computer game excites me more - why haven't I heard more about this? It sounds as if it would be genuinely fun, and have genuinely interesting effects, and people spend that much on, say, language learning software all the time. What's the catch?
posted by Acheman at 2:24 AM on June 28, 2009


Geekier option.
posted by rokusan at 2:33 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've played Brainball a few times, where the object is the opposite, relaxing your brain moves the ball. We also used similar tech for a Choose Your Own Adventure video where the choices were made based on output from the headset.
posted by Iteki at 3:02 AM on June 28, 2009


Oh great, let's give my bruiser 4yo the power to throw shit around with his mind... ;>

But really, is this just what the Ouija Board was for my generation--sort of for The Secret set? I'm trying to understand the branding of this product.
posted by njbradburn at 4:06 AM on June 28, 2009


Oh rokusan, Santa is bringing FOUR Force Trainers this year--thanks!!!
posted by njbradburn at 4:11 AM on June 28, 2009


You realize that we're all going to get addicted to this thing, and Wesley will have to save the ship again.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:31 AM on June 28, 2009 [32 favorites]


FOB, I wish I could Favorite that comment, like, a million times...
posted by njbradburn at 4:34 AM on June 28, 2009


I've used my concentration and a combination of physical and mental coordination to play with my balls many times. That doesn't make me a Jedi.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:44 AM on June 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


What's the catch?

Judging by the clip, the catch is that all the mind control seems to actually control is the speed of the fan. The ball doesn't move in three dimensions -- to get it through the obstacle course, you need to use your hand and twiddle the knob on the front.

This may be the most unimpressive technological advance I've ever seen.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:50 AM on June 28, 2009


Well I'm just hoping that they go for the option where they give your brain a little gift if you manage to get it right, a la "The Game" (check out Riker's orgasm face!). I'd pay $300 for that, provided they weren't going to use my orgasm addicted body to take over the Enterprise or something.
posted by h00py at 5:22 AM on June 28, 2009


Gaddamn I was too slow!
posted by h00py at 5:24 AM on June 28, 2009


Do you have to think in Russian?
posted by Ella Fynoe at 5:56 AM on June 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Judging by the clip, the catch is that all the mind control seems to actually control is the speed of the fan.

That wasn't what I was referring to - I meant the computer game made by the same company, which seems to properly train you to enter specific brain states, and looks much cheaper than other comparable biofeedback equipment.
posted by Acheman at 6:02 AM on June 28, 2009


I think the games in Wild Divine are better.
posted by bink at 6:54 AM on June 28, 2009


What's the catch?

Devices that have made similar claims have turned out to be crap: see the askme link above about the Neural Impulse Actuator, or the one star reviews on Amazon for that Wild Divine thing. There's zero reason to think this one will be any different without a substantial review. This Gizmodo link is the closest thing, but it was of a controlled demo at a trade show, which are usually radically different from the final product, and the reviewer only had a few minutes with the device. I'd want an article based on several hours of experience with the device and the game, preferably from somebody who knows something about neurology (like an actual academic, not some dude who's really into Ken Wilber or something), before I'd buy any of Neurosky's claims.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:17 AM on June 28, 2009


That Emotiv system that prak linked to looks like the real deal. If you watch this demo, they show how the software samples your brain waves while you are concentrating on a task on the screen, then you can use that particular brain wave sample as a command. Pretty cool.
It seems like this Mindflex toy could do the same thing in a much simpler way, just by adjusting the fan speed according to how much brain activity it picks up. Kinda cheesy, but I guess they decided to make it really simple so that any kid could just pick it up and play without any real learning curve. Hopefully, more advanced toys of this kind will hit the market eventually.
posted by orme at 7:30 AM on June 28, 2009


WHile there has been progress made in this technology, it looks like it requires an implantation in the brain - brainGate or cyberkinetics are words to look up if you're interested in a device that can read directly from the brain onto a computer, to bypass a paralyzed body.

But I don't think it can be done with a headband yet.
posted by mdn at 7:46 AM on June 28, 2009


keeping a ball stably within a puff of air requires control of more than just the puff of air.

I can't see the mechanism clearly enough in these photos, but I remember seeing a demonstration of laminar airflow at a children's museum when I was a kid HELLO I AM A NERD. They had a stream of air blowing upward suspending a basketball, and it was perfectly stable and self-correcting: you could even push the basketball off-center and turbulence would suck the basketball right back into the center of the stream.

That was an awesome museum. I wonder if they now let you control the basketball with your mind.
posted by ook at 7:47 AM on June 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


That Emotiv system that prak linked to looks like the real deal.

But again: that's a totally controlled demo by someone with a financial stake in the company at a presentation for true believers. It think it's very telling, for instance, that in the training session they only demoed making the cube rotate in one direction, and then moved on very quickly to making it disappear, rather than changing the direction of the rotation. That sets off a big alarm bell: I wouldn't be surprised if the headset can't distinguish between the brainwaves of someone thinking about clockwise rotation and someone thinking about counterclockwise rotation. It's also interesting that the announced release date for the device has slipped by a year since that demo, with the new date being only provisional. This is often a hallmark of overblown claims. I'll be interested when an independent reviewer with some knowledge of the subject gets their hands on it, but right now it's just a fascinating concept, not a proven practical device.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:21 AM on June 28, 2009


Kids, when I was your age the ball was on this elastic string and tied to this wooden paddle. We'd spend all day whacking that thing. And we were damn lucky.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:43 AM on June 28, 2009


Atari Mindlink.
posted by box at 8:46 AM on June 28, 2009


so what does it mean to 'focus'? do brainwaves altar in a recognizable pattern or something?

Only when you worship them.

Seriously, neurofeedback is no joke. People have been using it to self-regulate for many years.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2009


keeping a ball stably within a puff of air requires control of more than just the puff of air.

Apart from the brainwave controller (or whatever), I had this kind of toy as a kid some mumble mumble years ago. A fan keeps the ball suspended in the air, and then the whole track rotates. You have two controls for fan speed and track rotation speed, and you need to match them properly to navigate the little ball through all the obstacles. It was actually a pretty good game.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:48 AM on June 28, 2009


I'm suspicious when there's a claim that a piece of equipment can interpret what you think.

Right now, it's easier to train someone to generate brain waves* to control a detector than for a detector to determine intent.

I'd like a shot at a demo of these toys, but it seems like if the operator generates a particular gross kind of brain waveform, they can tell the device to perform one function. Generate a different (gross) waveform, and the device does something else.

*thinking about different things, for example, not thinking at all, thinking about "blank/black/darkness/nothing," thinking about moving, thinking about not moving, thinking about memories, &c&c. There's lots of different concentration kinds of thinking that light up different large/gross areas of the brain. Thinking about moving the left/right limbs *might* be different enough for toy-level equipment to pick up off one's cerebellum. Maybe. I can't believe that these toys have EEGs with sensitivities as good as the experimental stuff (which isn't good) for the price that they're retailing at.
posted by porpoise at 8:17 PM on June 28, 2009


Toyota develops technology for brain waves to steer wheelchair
posted by homunculus at 1:25 PM on June 29, 2009


« Older Sex Galaxy (trailer 1, trailer 2, NSFW) is a new f...  |  3 Quarks Daily's top three 200... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments