Archive for 'Videos'

Mattel gets into the EEG business

A new brain gaming toy is coming out later this year, in the same vein as the Emotiv Headset and MindBall. This one is from an established toy company, Mattel. 

Yes, Mattel. From the people who brought you Hot Wheels, you will soon be able to purchase an EEG and accompanying game set.

Check out the video demonstration:

[YouTube]l8STHiP7HZY[/YouTube]

Read more about it here.

The sensors measure theta-wave activity in your brain; the waves are directly related to your level of focus and concentration. The sensors register the theta-wave activity, translate that activity into a signal, and transmit it as a radio frequency to the Mind Flex.

The more theta-wave activity there is, the faster the little fan in the unit will spin. The speed the fan spins at, and therefore moves the ball, is based on how hard you concentrate. The faster the fan spins, the higher the ball goes along the Z axis. Turn a dial and move the ball along the X and Y axis.

TED Talk On Biofeedback

If you haven’t viewed any of the TED videos, you’ve been missing out. There are some really stunning and thought-provoking ideas floating around.

Released this month is a short talk by neuroscientist Christopher deCharms, on the future of biofeedback technology. More specifically, he talks about the use of a rtfMRI, or “Real-time Functional MRI.”

Mental drumming

The Scientist released article today about a show in New York called “Trio for percussion and brain waves”.

The show consisted of three percussionists using their thoughts of drumming to create the performance. Their brain activity was measured, and certain spikes in that activity caused the instruments to play.

The fascinating part, to me, is that this was a trio – three people on stage, harmonizing with each other, using nothing but brainwaves.

From the article:

As a rapt audience watched, sounds issued from three laptops connected to the drummers by Bluetooth technology. The musicians’ brainwaves traveled through the air, triggering tones from the computers before leaping to life on the 12-foot-high screen hanging behind them.

The performance was part of an experiment designed by David Sulzer, Columbia University neuroscientist. It demonstrated Sulzer’s idea that thinking about an action could stimulate the brain in much the same way as actually carrying it out. 

 

When one of the three musicians started a mental music piece and the other two tried to accompany it, the brainwaves of the three synced up intermittently. “That was because they constantly needed to catch up with each other,” said Sulzer.

Here’s the article: http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/54510/ 

David Sulzer explains the process behind this more in a video here: http://scienceline.org/2008/03/26/video-intagliata-brainmusic

Thoughts on Mind-Gaming

Mind-based gaming is all over the news lately. The concept is being met with equal parts excitement, skepticism and downright paranoia. Who likes the idea of Microsoft “reading your thoughts”?

Of course, to those of us in the EEG industry, “mind gaming” is nothing new. On this blog I’ve written many posts about EEGs being used to play games, or move online avatars. You’ve seen Canadian Idol judges spar at MindBall. You’ve read about light-sabers coming to life using the mind alone. In fact our latest product Mind WorkStation is even capable brain-gaming by controlling on-screen visualizations. For example, one game involves starting a fire with nothing but brainwaves!

But, what this area has lacked thus far is a brain-computer interface that avoids the messy paste and exhaustive setup that most EEG units require. We need something that can just be slipped on and off. The device that looks like it will spearhead this new movement is the EPOC Neuroheadset from Emotiv.

Mind Hacks has a great write-up about the Emotiv technology here: http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2008/03/playing_mind_games_.html

He brings up some good points about EEG gaming. Gamers expecting this headset to instantly transform them into Jedi masters will likely be disappointed. EEGs are measuring very minute electrical signals that have to first pass through the skull, and other biofeedback technologies have delay issues that will render them useless for the fast pace of most games.

These issues have caused some problems already, as shown in a recent Emotiv demo in San Francisco, where they had to resort to using a handheld controller in order to complete the game. 

You can get an idea of the problems involved by looking at some demos uploaded to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDpmSiMiscA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59hgJlQ0tJI

Here is a better demo, but still illustrates how hard it is to use an EEG as a complex game controller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxMux4uEkLI

Despite these problems, I do think mind gaming could be very successful if it is used in a way appropriate to the limitations of the technology. For example, it could easily be used to enhance the powers or abilities of certain characters in the game. In a Harry Potter game, the magic wand could be more powerful if the gamer produces a specific brainwave pattern. In a sports game, the team could run faster and score more if the gamer is in the “zone.” These types of uses, although less sexy than “moving things with your mind”, would actually be a much more realistic use of the technology.

Using neurofeedback-like technology for recreational gaming does bring up some concerns. Suppose, for example, a popular feature of a game – such as using objects or weapons - is triggered or enhanced by the production of theta waves. Given the addictive nature of games, I could easily see avid gamers developing ”brain fog” or other problems associated with excess slow-wave activity.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this technology is released to an unsupervised mass market. Perhaps the algorithms used, and the way the games are structured, will help mitigate any problems that could occur. I admit that the geek in me wants to get one of these things immediately.

Gamma Synchrony and consciousness

Stuart Hameroff talks about the definition of consciousness, relating to gamma  synchrony, EEG spikes, quantum computing and other hot topics in the study of conscious experience.

[YouTube]aw9Jo5qNCsQ[/YouTube]

A music concert created with the brainwaves of the audience

From an outside perspective, this “concert” would look more like a gathering of cyborgs. But for those involved it is the holy grail of audience participation – using the brainwaves of the audience to produce music.

[YouTube]Ff-Dmlreg4I[/YouTube]

Brain Video: EEG used to control virtual avatars in Second Life

In this video, an EEG device is being used to control the movement of an online avatar, or digital “you”, bringing us a tiny bit closer to a truly virtualized world (e.g. The Matrix).

[YouTube]KhCBZcq58c0[/YouTube]

Brain asymmetry and why it is important

As most people know, different parts of the brain are assigned different tasks. The brain is lateralized – asymmetrical, by design. And, there is a very good reason for that. The split-brain design allows us to process many things at once. We owe our ability to multi-task to the hemispheric design of the brain.

Like the human brain, many modern computers are coming with essentially 2 hemispheres, or Dual Core processors. When one processor is busy checking email, the other can be scanning for viruses. This is analogous to how brain hemispheres work.

To test the theory of the split-brain advantage, Aneglo Bisazza and Marco Dadda  of the University of Padova bred two different strains of the same species of fish. One strain was bred to have asymmetrical brains like most vertebrates, and the other strain was bred with symmetrical ones (both sides processing the same thing).

Both fish groups could handle a single task equally well, such as catching shrimp. But, if a second component was added to the mix -  a predator – the split-brain advantage became quite apparent. The symmetrical-brained fish took twice as long to catch their prey, having to divide their attention between watching for prey and catching a meal. Their asymmetrical cousins, on the other hand, were able to focus on both tasks at once, and the introduction of a predator hardly affected their ability to catch food at all.

Asymmetry is absolutely essential in order to complete the complex tasks we take for granted. In a conversation with someone, the left brain will be processing the verbal language, while the right brain interprets tone and inflection.  If you are asked to imagine a scene, the left brain will create the details, while the right brain handles the overall shapes, sizes and their spatial locations. Without both sides processing all of these details at once, we would never be able to function at the advanced level we do.

But there are also disadvantages to asymmetry. Certain tasks may be easier to execute on either the left or right side of your body. The left side of the human face tends to be more expressive because it is controlled by the right hemisphere. Most people are right-handed because the left brain is usually dominant. According to Bisazza and Dadda, the aforementioned fish will tend to guard one side of their body over the other and as a result their predators will tend to approach them from the unguarded side.

Brain asymmetry means that both hemispheres have to work closely to ensure a smooth ride, and having an overly dominant hemisphere is invariably a bad thing.  Brain damage to the right hemisphere can leave a person indifferent and uncaring, while brain damage to the left can leave them with severe depression, or without speech.

You’ve probably heard quite a lot about “hemispheric synchronization” already (just look at how many brain stimulation companies have “sync” in their names).  The word synchronization can be misleading in the context of the brain, since it implies that the two halves are processing information in the same way, which isn’t usually the case. However, brain activity can be more evenly distributed across both hemispheres. In a healthy, intelligent brain, the two halves are communicating fluently, and working closely together. There is a reduction in dominance of one hemisphere over another.

To see for yourself the manifestation of hemisphere-specific neural processing, check out the below video to see what happens when the corpus callosum, which facilities cross-hemisphere communication, is severed:

[YouTube]ZMLzP1VCANo[/YouTube]

Weekly Brain Video: Memory techniques

Andi Bell isn’t an autistic savant. He wasn’t born with photographic memory. Yet, he is currently the reigning champion in the speed category of the World Memory Championships.

This is possible because of a memory technique Andi uses, which is explained in the following videos:

[YouTube]X-xl7_hdWZo[/YouTube]

Part 2:

[YouTube]9NROegsMqNc[/YouTube]

This technique reminds me a lot of Memory Pegs, which many of you may have already heard of.

The basic idea of these memory techniques is to associate a story or image with what you want to remember. The more humorous and outlandish the story, the better. For example, if I wanted to remember to buy turkey and paper towels at the store, I might picture a live turkey comically trying to escape from a wrap of paper towels.

I use this technique when I play Brain Age, which lists words much like the experiment in the above videos. I associate 2 words with something comical, and move to the next pair. Usually, I can remember all of them, and I certainly don’t have prodigious memory.

To me, the interesting and unique part about Andi Bell’s technique is the use of a familiar route to further reinforce the memory pathways. Start at the door of your house, associate a memory with it, walk into the foyer, associate a memory with that, walk through the living room, a new memory, and so on. This is brilliant.

Brain Video: Inducing “Out-Of-Body” experiences using virtual reality goggles

This video describes a fascinating new way to induce a kind of out of body experience. Here is how it works:

In the Swiss experiments, the researchers asked volunteers to stand in front of a camera while wearing video-display goggles.

Through these goggles, the volunteers could see a camera view of their own back – a three-dimensional “virtual own body” that appeared to be standing in front of them.

When the researchers stroked the back of the volunteer with a pen, the volunteer could see their virtual back being stroked either simultaneously or with a time lag.

The volunteers reported that the sensation seemed to be caused by the pen on their virtual back, rather than their real back, making them feel as if the virtual body was their own rather than a hologram.

Even when the camera was switched to film the back of a mannequin being stroked rather than their own back, the volunteers still reported feeling as if the virtual mannequin body was their own.

[YouTube]4PQAc_Z2OfQ[/YouTube]

The researchers say their findings could have practical applications, such as helping take video games to the next level of virtuality so the players feel as if they are actually inside the game.