Video game players might soon use their thoughts instead of joysticks to control on-screen characters, if they wear a helmet released by Emotiv Systems.
The ‘Project Epoc’ headset looks like a bicycle racer's helmet, but instead of protecting the skull, it detects the brainwaves inside it, using technology similar to electroencephalography found in medical environments.
Emotiv has applied the technology to video games with the company's first product, the Emotiv Development Kit (EDK). The kit allows game developers to attach dozens of thoughts and emotions to the actions in their virtual worlds, Emotiv said.
A game designed with EDK could allow players to move objects on the screen without touching a keyboard or joystick, make the character smile or wink when they do, or require a human player to stay calm so his character does not panic and reveal a hiding place in a stealth game.
The headset is tuned finely enough to distinguish between a player's mental commands to lift a virtual item or to push, pull or spin it, Emotiv said. That could allow gamers to experience telekinesis, moving objects with their minds instead of their muscles like Star Wars' Jedi knights.
Developers have long sought ways to let gamers interact in ways that offer more realism than simple devices such as joysticks. Nintendo added physical motion to its Wii controller, while Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 use vibrating handsets.
Emotiv's EDK connects its headset to three pieces of software: an Expressiv application that identifies the user's facial expressions, an Affectiv application that measures players' emotional states and a Cognitiv application that detects players' conscious thoughts about lifting or rotating the objects they see.
The company has not announced pricing for the EDK, but says the headset will be available to consumers in 2008. Emotiv is marketing its technology first to gamers, and plans to adapt it in the future for medicine, security, market research, accessibility design and interactive television.