NeuroStorm, a demonstration game built by Intific, a company based in Peckville,
Pa. In this game, a player still uses a regular hand-held controller to aim and
fire at objects. A headset measures the player's brain waves to detect levels of
calm and focus, which are rewarded with higher scores. Achieving a calm state of
mind amid chaos improves accuracy.
"We need a couple of clever developers to come up with some killer apps," said Chris Berka, chief executive of Advanced Brain Monitoring of Carlsbad, whose brain wave reading headsets have been popular for diagnosing and treating people with sleep apnea.
The timing for a partnership, in many ways, is ideal because the gaming industry is struggling with sales and wants to find ways to make games more immersive by tapping into people's nervous and sensory systems, including elements of touch, smell, emotional responses, heart rate and moisture levels on the skin.
"One thing we are very interested in is the notion of biofeedback and how it can be applied to game design," said Mike Ambinder, an experimental psychologist who works for Bellevue, Wash.-based video game company Valve.
Brain waves seem like the next logical step.
Indeed, there are some early, promising signs, said Sana Choudary, chief executive of YetiZen, a co-working and education game community hub and accelerator for game start-ups in San Francisco. Choudary cited statistics from investment bank Raymond James that 24 neurogaming companies have raised close to $87 million in venture capital in recent years.
Earlier this year, Lat Ware of Mountain View, Calif., raised $40,000 on the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to finish his game "Throw Trucks With Your Mind!" Users wear an $80 NeuroSky headset that lets them move objects on the screen by concentrating and relaxing.
But for the most part, the gaming industry is just beginning to grapple with the larger challenges of incorporating brain waves and biofeedback into the gaming experience. Just how can all these new types of data and input be used to leverage new gaming experiences?
And the neurotech industry still has plenty of its own hurdles. Even as the hardware has become more powerful and less expensive, some headgear requires users to apply gel to their head for the sensors to collect the brain's signal. And there remains the question of whether most people would be willing to wear headgear of any kind, no matter how lightweight or elegant the design.
Lynch is realistic about the prospects for neurotech, and how far it still needs to go.
"It really comes down to designing great games and amazing experiences," Lynch said. "You can have all the technology in the world. But unless you have an experience people want and need and desire and have fun with, then all that technology will just sit off by the wayside."
(c)2013 the Los Angeles Times
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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