Mind Games -The Next Big Thing In Toys
Could "The Force" actually be with you? Behold two of the first mass-market brain-to-computer products: The Star Wars Force Trainer by Uncle Milton Toys and Mattels Mindflex, two new toys which allow you to get into the zone. Through focus and concentration, using only the power of the mind, you can levitate a ball into action, try to pass it through some obstacles, make it move faster or slower, tap in to the powers of the universe....ok maybe just the powers of your own thoughts.
photo source: USA Today
The Star Wars Force Trainer And Mattel Mindflex
The Future is Here
Two different toy companies - Uncle Miltons Toys and Mattel, are now using the same technology used in EEG (Electroencephalogram) machines to create super cool, unique science games/toys that measure brain activity. These two new toys - The Star Wars Force trainier and Mindflex allow you to physically levitate a ball, using only the power of your mind, into the air and guide it through a range of exercises.
Everyone, at one point or another, has dreamed of being able to use telekinesis or "The Force" from the Star Wars films. Because these games offer such a remarkable fantasy, they have appeal to both kids and adults alike. In addition, They offer a glimpse into a future where our minds and technology will meet more often.
How They Work
Can You Really Levitate A Ball With The Power Of Your Mind?
Yes, you can! Well, sort of....Both games work in the same manner. You wear a headset designed to pick up the Beta waves from your brain. This headset sends the signals from your brain to a computer. This computer then turns a fan which lifts the ball into the air. The strength of the signals from your brain to the computer tells the fan how fast to spin.
Beta waves are the kind of waves your brain produces when you concentrate or are alert and mentally performing tasks. The more you concentrate, the stronger the Beta waves and the faster the fan spins, thus lifting the ball higher. Likewise, weak signals reduce the fans speed and the ball sinks lower.
Real EEG machines record more than just Beta waves, they record all brain waves - Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Theta. They also use dozens of electrodes and powerful amplifiers, conductive gel and little needles to help the electrodes enter the skin. These new toys,by contrast use only three simple electrodes and as mentioned previously,detect only Beta waves. It is all done at a very low power as well. Thus, its sort of compares the way a toy laser compares to a real leaser - real enough to teach the scientific concepts involved and work, but not powerful enough to do any harm or damage.
Get A Glimpse of Mind Over Matter Technology Games Here
The Star Wars Mind Trainer
Just launched in August 2009, ages 8+, Uncle Milton Toys, $120
The Star Wars Mind Trainer uses the fantasy of "The Force," complete with Yoda and R2-D2's voices to guide players to mentally lift a ball up to theee different heights. The ball is decorated like Luke's training probe and Star Wars sound effects and music accompany each training level you reach.
The wireless headset included in the game fits comfortable like a pair of headphones. Plastic arms place one electrode behind each ear and a third against your temple. The headset communicates with a small console that has a large tube on top of it. Markings on the tube divide it into three sections, and the ball is trapped inside.
To play, Yoda asks you to move the ball into one of the numbered sections of the tube. Hold it there long enough and R2-D2 will squeal with delight and the ball will drop back to its starting position. Yoda will then ask you to try for a different level. Its that simple.
There are two modes you can play the game in - practice and training mode. A button on the headset allows you to choose between these two exercises. The training will take you from "Padawan" in which you must simply lift the ball slightly, to "Jedi Master" where you must move the ball through a complex series of requests, holding it in specific sections for long periods. There are 15 levels in all.
The fun comes from trying to reach a level of precision in the game and listening to Yoda who guides you with such choice quotes as:
"Improving, you are"
"Good, much you have learned"
"Peaceful, you're mind is"
The Star Wars link this game has is definitely pretty cool and the game makes for a fun science and learning toy. Having your child work on their skills of astute concentration is a skill anyone can get behind.
Star Wars Mind Trainer - GET IT NOW!
Sure to be a hit for the holidays, get one and impress your friends with your mastery of "The Force"
Its on sale now at amazon!
Just launched in September, ages 8+, Mattel, $145
The Mattel version of the mind trainer takes more of a family approach. Players take turns wearing the headset and try to guide the hovering ball through an obstacle course that is interchangeable. Each run is timed by the computer and the winner is the one with the shortest time.
Like the Star Wars Mind trainer, there is a wireless headset and an adjustable, elastic headband which allows you to place one electrode tightly against your temple while two dangling alligator clips attach electrodes to your ears by clamping down on your lobes. This set up is rather silly looking but it does allow for a large range of head sizes and more direct contact with the electrodes themselves.
The headset communicates with a console that has a circular track that the fan can travel along. A blue, foam ball is placed on the fan nozzle and when it receives the right signals from your brain, completely hovers in mid air. The stronger the signals the console receives from you, the higher it hovers.
While the ball is powered by your mind, you moev the fan along a mechanical track that you operate with a large knob. You use your mind to make the ball float and then turn the knob to move the fan along the track and it carries the floating ball with it.
Using a selection of plastic parts included in the box, you build an obstacle course along the track. The plastic parts fit into holes placed along the sides of the tracks. Little structures are created that you must raise and lower the ball through to pass. There are cage-like structures for the ball to climb through and towers with adjustable rings. There are also funnels and cannons which will launch the ball off-course if you're not careful, and a teeter-totter and a propeller wheel that allow the ball to take a little ride.
These parts are easy to assemble, but patience, concentration and understanding are necessary to get the ball to work with them. It's easy for the ball to get knocked off and sent rolling on the floor, or to get stuck within the pieces themselves.
As you play, a computer voice guides you through the different game modes and keeps track of scores. A set of embedded lights helps to divide the track into different sections, allowing the console to target specific areas.There are also a number of other lights and sounds, some of which show how strong of a signal the console is receiving from your brain. One light indicates weak signal whereas five indicates strong.
All together there are 5 different game modes:
Freestyle is a practice mode where you can work on raising and lowering the ball with precision.
Mental Marathon challenges players to complete the obstacles in the shortest time.
Danger Zone uses the lights to create areas that you must quickly move the ball out of (with or without obstacles).
Chase The Lights asks you to move the ball to each light as it becomes lit.
Thoughtshot has you set up the cannon and direct it towards the funnel. Each time you launch the ball through the cannon and into the funnel, you get a point. Whoever has the most points, wins.
These activities deliver more variety using the levitating ball. Like the Star Wars Force Trainer, Mindflex is a cool science toy, and works to develop mental stamina, concentration and mind control.
See the Mindflex in action in this review of the game from CBS news
Mindflex - GET ONE NOW!
Feel like a character in a science fiction movie as you strap on the headset and use your mind to move a ball. After mastering that, test your mental acuity with five challenging games designed for groups of one to four players.
Fans of mazes and brain teasers will appreciate the mental challenge involved in this game, and creative types will like designing the obstacle courses.
Although the price tags are rather high, both games are unique, and both games explore science concepts that apply to the furture. Scientists are currently trying to use this technology to provide systems that will allow people to control wheelchairs, interact with computers, deliver commands to robots, and perform complex tasks beyond our normal capabilities. Toys like these can deliver a strong, educational benefit and I'd be willing to bet in years to come we will see many more toys that operate with the same mind control principle.
Scott Herbst, Ph.D. (in behavioral psychology) has this to say about these kinds of toys: "Studies have shown that if you can increase frontal lobe activity through exercises like this, you can increase objective measures of concentration (e.g., amount of time engaged with a task) and decrease measures of impulsivity. And not just for the task where the skill was trained. So a child who got adept at playing this game should also pay better attention in school, likely increase their reading comprehension, do better on homework, etc.
In labs where they do this sort of therapy, children with ADHD have shown serious improvement in functioning. Some kids are able to get off meds altogether.
If you want to do a little extra research before purchasing, go to wikipedia and search neurofeedback. There's a good synopsis there with links to some peer-reviewed research at the bottom."
Source for photos on this page: krisabel.ctv.ca/post