NeuroSky Inc, a venture company based in San Jose, Calif, prototyped a system that reads brain waves with a sensor and uses them for mobile phone applications.
The company exhibited the system at CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 2008, an exhibition running from Sept 10 to 12, 2008, in San Francisco, Calif. The headset-shaped system consists of a sensor to read brain waves, digital signal processing part and so forth. The sensor contacts with a point on user's forehead.
By reading brain waves such as α and β waves, the system can roughly measure the degrees of brain's relaxation and concentration, NeuroSky said. The data of brain waves can be displayed on the screen of a mobile phone by using a visualizer or can be used to control the movement of a video game character.
Brainwave sensor for consumer use
The strength of NeuroSky lies in its sensor technologies for measuring brain waves and software algorithms that deduce the psychological states of users from the data collected. The company developed the new sensor technologies for commercial use based on those for medical use.
The digital signal processing part that measures brain waves is currently composed mainly of discrete parts. But, the company plans to integrate them into a chip (IC) in the near future, it said.
NeuroSky has already sold development kits to home game console makers and game software developers, and they can now develop systems that use brain waves for operations. The company already has more than nine customers, it said.
The company exhibited the new system at CTIA to show the usefulness of mobile phone application software developed by the kit.
"We prototyped and demonstrated the system to make it possible for our customers to imagine headset-like products," the company said.
For the future, the company is considering developing not only the systems that control home game consoles and mobile phones by brain waves but also those that control home-use audio-visual equipment.
At the exhibition site, NeuroSky demonstrated its headset to operate a mobile phone. The company exhibited the same type of headset in the past. But, this time, it actually operated the headset for the first time. The headset was connected to Nokia Corp's handset via Bluetooth, and the data of the changes in user's brain waves was wirelessly transmitted.
The demonstrated applications include:
(1) an application to show the degree of brain's relaxation on the screen of a mobile phone by using a visualizer
(2) an application to show the degree of brain's tension in chronological order after a user solves about 10 arithmetical problems (addition, multiplication, etc) shown on the screen of a mobile phone
(3) a game application to move a video game character to an intended place as quickly as possible on the screen of a mobile phone. The more the degree of brain's concentration, the more quickly the character moves.
As for (1), when a user calms his or her mind on purpose, the curving lines drawn by the visualizer change to various colors. With regard to (2), if an appropriate application is developed, it will be possible to realize a brain training game in which the challenge level changes in real time in accordance with the degree of brain's tension.
NeuroSky's exhibition booth was crowded with people who wished to try those applications. The company plans to make presentations at other exhibitions including one in Japan.