Durham – Can you imagine your mind controlling a video game? Yes, it is true, an education program, is giving students at the Duke University an introduction into neuroscience and how the brain versus machine interface actually works. A device controlled by your thoughts.
We are not talking about the fancy graphic, fast paced video games played by most people these days, but rather a simpler game of Pong, yes that is right. For the research to gather momentum, simplicity is better at the beginning of the project. We remember it was the two Steve’s – Jobs and Wozniak who started with simple experiments in electronics that revolutionized the computer industry into the incredible technology we have today.
The participating students wear a wireless constructed spider-like cap containing a saline soaked felt padded electrode. This electrode cap is capable of capturing the electrical activity from the neurons of the brain to control the Pong paddles onscreen.
David Schwarz, a Duke University PhD student developed the mind control Pong game. Eager to share his work with budding scientists, He gathered a few fellow students, and Schwarz tested the Pong activity in his lab. He is eager to share his work with his colleagues and during the trials had to force some students away from the addictive mind control game.
The director of the program and the executive director of the Duke center for Science Education, Chris Adamczyk said their goal is to make science fun and stimulating so that the students cannot consider it science at all. Schwarz acknowledged the trials were supposed to be mostly fun, first and foremost.
Several of the students who assisted with the program said they found this to be the coolest thing they had ever done, enjoyable and intense at first. During a brain training session, one of the students nodded her head vigorously and blinked her eyes to move her paddle that shot up and down to intercept a ball. They found the paddle shifting odd at first but as they continued to concentrate and practice the paddle moved with ease.
With each movement of the head, the electrode cap sent the brain activity to the computer. As the signal from the brain beamed to the electrode link, the paddle would go up or down as a reproduced action. During some practice sets, the students could imagine their physical movement and the paddle would respond. Schwarz acknowledged as he watched the trials he became impressed when one of the students sitting still made the paddle move.
The mind control Pong game is a simple game used as a teaching tool, yet an equally important game as it may be the research from this the simplistic game that shows the power of technology that may one day allow the paralyzed walk. The mind control used for video game tests can create the potential for paralyzed people to improve their independence. It is probable that Schwarz will revise his game setup for others to use. He will continue to advance science outreach when he graduates.
Written by Laura Oneale