Eye Sightings

The Consumer Eyes Blog

Mind Games

This year's hot toys sound like something out of science fiction. They're brainwave controlled games that you manipulate using nothing but the power of your mind. The key is wireless headsets that can read your brain activity (using a simplified version of the technology underlying EEG medical tests) and translate it into physical actions.

Certainly the toys are revolutionary. Geoff Walker, a senior vice president at Mattel, acknowledges that users "spend the first 20 minutes stunned that it actually works."

Mattel's brainwave offering for 2009 is the MindFlex, a game that involves moving a plastic ball through an obstacle course, using thoughts to increase power to a fan which then blows the ball through hoops and over towers. Another of the season's major mind-control toys is Uncle Milton's Star Wars Force Trainer. The aim of this game, which parallels Luke Skywalker's Jedi training in the films, is to concentrate hard enough for a ball to rise to the top of a 10 inch tube. The player's actions are, of course, accompanied by signature Star Wars sound effects!

The brain-wave technology for both games was developed by a firm called NeuroSky, which sees toys as merely its first application. Eventually NeuroSky hopes to use the technology in more serious pursuits: educational gear that could help attention-deficit youngsters learn to focus or tools that would allow paralyzed patients to carry out actions with their minds, helping them become more independent.