Thursday, March 08, 2007

New game device may be promising as assistive technology

There is interesting news in computer gaming that may have broader future applications as an assistive technology peripheral device.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Emotiv Systems introduced a breakthrough brain-computer interface system that allows the game player to interact using only their thoughts and facial expressions with the computer via a helmet wired to the pc.
The Project Epoch
Reflects the user’s facial expressions and excitement/calmness level, and also allows the person to move computer objects with their thoughts.

According to the article linked above:
“Sensors in the helmet pick up on electric signals in the brain. The system software analyzes the signals emitted by the brain and then wirelessly relays what it detects to a receiver. The receiver is plugged into the USB port of a game console or PC, according to Randy Breen, Emotiv's chief product officer.”
“As with handwriting or voice recognition, the machine itself has a learning curve, improving as it better understands what the player is thinking, but there is also a skill level involving visualization on the part of the gamer.”

Can you imagine the potential of this system if it were applied to a situation where the person were quadraplegic or missing a limb? I’m sure there are other uses that can be realized, but these are the ones that immediately came to my mind when I read this news. By Joining the functionality that the Project Epoch employs with the latest innovations in robotics, a person with some particular disabilities can see a quality of life that could only be dreamed about in previous times.

Early anecdotal feedback of the Project Epoch System reports that children do better using this device than adults. Might this be due to the ability of children to imagine possibilities beyond their normal limitations? If this feedback is correct, and this system can be used in the situations I’ve described above, then it would be essential to instill the belief in the person with a disability that he/she can do things that were previously impossible. Come to think of it, that's not necessarily a bad state of mind for any of us to have.

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