Linden Cortex?


I first heard rumors of this small tidbit of terror a few days ago, and it has been gnawing at the back of my mind ever since. It seems that in the near future some games, perhaps even our own dear Second Life, may be able to do that just that…gnaw at the back of our brains.

It seems that some of so clever scientists are finding ways to do away with controllers and keyboards all together…and jack games directly into our brains.

Remember how well that worked for Neo?

I love many of you, and don’t mind most of you….but that doesn’t mean I want you to sit down for tea in my cerebral cortex thank you very much…not even if you bring scones.

There really needs to be some giant Robby the Robot in every major university, think tank and development lab who spins around screaming DANGER, DANGER, DANGER whenever any boffin comes up with something like this.

The following is reposted from Wired.

Direct Brain-to-Game Interface Worries Scientists

By Emmet Cole

Your brain might be your next videogame controller.

That might sound pretty awesome, but the prospect of brain-controlled virtual joysticks has some scientists worried that games might end up controlling our brains.

Several makers of brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs — devices that facilitate operating a computer by thought alone — claim the technology is poised to jump from the medical sector into the consumer gaming world in 2008.

Companies including Emotiv Systems and NeuroSky say they’ve released BCI-based software-development kits. Gaming companies may release BCI games next year, but many scientists worry that users brains’ might be subject to negative effects.

For example, the devices sometimes force users to slow down their brain waves. Afterward, users have reported trouble focusing their attention.

“Imagine that somebody uses a game with slow brain-wave activity and then drives a car while still in that state,” says Niels Birbaumer, a leading independent researcher in medical applications of BCIs. “You could have an accident. I think it’s a rare possibility, but it should be tested before people do this.”

Consumer BCIs use noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors attached to the scalp to detect brain-wave patterns. The signals are amplified and digitized, so a computer can process the information.

BCIs can allow game players to move around and manipulate objects within virtual game environments, using thought alone. They can also detect and monitor the brain-wave patterns associated with a person’s emotional state and stress levels.

The technology (both implanted and noninvasive versions) has been successfully tested in quadriplegics, helping patients move a cursor on a computer screen, turn switches on and off, and operate a wheelchair.

But when it’s used for sheer entertainment, scientists worry that gamers will experience the effects of neurofeedback — a technique used to heighten awareness and control of brain waves by providing a real-time graphic representation of the user’s brain wave activity. Biofeedback works similarly, using physiological information such as blood pressure, skin temperature and heart rate.

For example, in a stress-reducing game created by Smart BrainGames for medical purposes, players can reach the optimum speed for driving a race car only when they’re calm. But the Food and Drug Administration has approved the device only for relaxation and “muscle re-education,” and the company doesn’t believe it should be used as just a game.

“From a clinical perspective, we are superconcerned about any use of this technology that’s being touted as a toy or as entertainment,” says Lindsay Greco, co-founder of Smart BrainGames.

Emotiv and NeuroSky have their roots in medical technologies. University researchers are testing NeuroSky’s technology to treat attention deficit disorder, depression, addictions and phobias, according to Greg Hyver, the company’s vice president of marketing. Nevertheless, now that the companies have released development kits for games that would be strictly for fun, medical professionals are bristling.

“Most biofeedback is used for clearly defined clinical purposes, specifically to try and eliminate or ameliorate a problem,” says Alan Garos, president of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. “Using feedback of brain activity for non-therapeutic purposes is something that we have to look at carefully.”

BCIs are great for gamers with disabilities, but may not be so good for the general public, says Michelle Hinn, chair of the International Game Developers Association’s Game Accessibility Special Interest Group, an advocacy group for creating mainstream games accessible to gamers with physical and cognitive disabilities.

“I can’t say that this (BCI-based games) won’t cause attention deficits, because that’s a very real possibility and a very real concern,” says Hinn, who has a master’s degree in psychology and is finishing a Ph.D. program in human-computer interaction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Most gaming companies contacted by Wired News, including LucasArts, Activision and Disney Interactive, would not comment on whether they’re developing BCI games. Capcom and Eidos, however, say they’re not.



  1. Just think of the opportunities for griefing!

    On second thought, let’s try not to think of the opportunities for griefing. There’s enough to worry about already.

  2. *hangs her head in shame*

    I’ve been waiting for a headjack for years. I’m so sorry. I’m somewhat morbidly looking forward to this…

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