Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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Play World of Warcraft... With Your Mind!

World of Warcraft may be slowly losing players, but it's gaining new ways to play the game -- specifically, thanks to G.Tec Medical Engineering in Austria, you will soon be able to play WoW with your mind:

Video explains in detail how the process works, but if you're impatient, the Warcraft action starts at around 1:50. According to G.Tec's Armin Schnürer, this system, called intendiX®SOCI (for Screen Overlay Control Interface), will be commercially available later this year. And while this video demo only shows user movement in Warcraft (forward/backward/left/right), Armin tells me it's feasible to add other commands. From a smartass perspective, this could be a way for lazy gamers to play WoW without even having to move. From an utterly serious angle, however, this could be a great way for the disabled to play with their friends and loved ones, even when they have no physical ability to do so.

G.Tec is the same company that created a similar innovation last year with Second Life, and when I blogged about it then, people wondered if this could actually be a commercially viable product. Isn't it a time consuming pain to install a web of electrode's on someone's head any time they want to play WoW?

World of Warcraft Mind Control

"Of course we need the electrode cap to measure your brain-waves," Armin answers, "but for the future we can think of using our dry electrodes (you don’t need gel anymore) or mounting the electrodes in a baseball cap." In any case, he adds, "At the moment the mounting time of the cap (including inserting of the gel) is about 2 minutes –- the user can boot the computer meanwhile."

So far, the G.Tec team has tested this technology with 40 people at the CeBIT conference, and before that, with students at a school in Upper Austria. It would be great to see it introduced to handicapped gamers on a much wider basis.

As for the Second Life prototype, which was set to be available by now, "We did not develop it further," Armin tells me. From what I glean in the video, the company will need funding to make the SL or WoW version a commercial product. Kickstarter, anyone?


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It seemed that the user had to 'look' at the relevant UI button to activate it, rather than simply thinking 'move forward' or 'attack'. This can already be done much less invasively using web camera gaze and face tracking.


"It seemed that the user had to 'look' at the relevant UI button to activate it, rather than simply thinking 'move forward' or 'attack'."

It may seem that way, but simply thinking of that button may bias your postural muscles to (unconsciously) orient toward it. I find it unlikely that serious scientists would not control for this.

Arcadia Codesmith

Using your mind to play WoW? Say, that IS novel!


Great, more techno-fetishist doo-dads for an age when we cannot even walk without texting. Flash forward to 2112 ad: Aliens finally DO visit Earth.

Science Officer Bloog: "Well, sir, the away-team keeps finding skeletons with very large rib-cages and atrophied legs and arms"

Captain Koolash: "And every one of them is arranged before dead electronic devices and surrounded by feeding and waste-removal tubes."

Science Officer Bloog: "We now know why their civilization died, sir. It's another...another..."

Captain Koolash: "Say it, man. A WoW World. Let's get back to the ship and do our daily exercises, then we'll read some good books and play chess."


And I'm not being cruel about the disabled folks who could benefit from this technology. I hope it helps them.

Yet every technology has unintended outcomes: Henry Ford could not have imagined the ruination of America's open land, the social stratifying of private spaces, and the wreck of Earth's ecosystem when we rolled out his first mass-produced cars.

Tech always bites back, even as it brings us new and useful abilities.


Sheesh Iggy, sounds like you are lonely person who can't deal with change. Maybe you should try talking to those people you see text-walking. Yes, there are always difficulties associated with new technology but the benefits almost always outweigh them. Are you seriously saying that we would be better off without computers/phones/video games? I presume that if this stuff is bad for humanity we will adapt. I agree that taking time out of the day to enjoy your surroundings is important... i don't see why those things are mutually exclusive though, what do you think those people texting are talking about anyway? I understand that mind reading is a scary "thought" but if the technology is out there, then the "bad guys" are gonna get it anyway. You are mostly just talking preferences, i think its awesome that technology is a facilitator to all kinds of life styles. good riddance to the good ol' days.

I'm a casual gamer, but because i use my hands for all kinds of other things, it would be extremely awesome if i could reduce the stress on them. I don't want carpel tunnel!


I'm what I think is called a "reform Luddite," Propagtion. I love tech but use it selectively (phone is off most of the time), and I ask lots of questions about unintended consequences.

So while this brain-to-PC interface offers amazing benefits to the disabled, and perhaps to casual gamers like you or me, it will bite back if widely adopted. Perhaps it will bite back in some way we cannot anticipate, as with the automobile, distilled crude oil, air travel, or even plastics for food storage.

Legislation cannot and almost always should not stop these technologies.

Sometimes, however, we do not see the consequences of a technology until they are a rear-view-mirror event. As for the Internet? I can't live without it, even as I acknowledge Sven Birkerts' three losses from what he calls "The Electronic Millennium": flattening of historical perspectives, the erosion of language, the waning of the private self.

One unintended consequence Birkerts forgot: 17% of all road accidents in the US, I've just read, involved a "distracted driver." Some of that is fiddling with the radio or AC, but then we have a goodly number of texting drivers...we have to put in laws after enough deaths and maiming occurs.

Asking the right and painful questions now, for any new technology, beats unquestioned adoption.

Arcadia Codesmith

The protagonist in "Ready Player One" installs a lockout on his virtual world interface that doesn't allow him to use it until he completes a strenuous exercise routine.

I need to figure out how to implement this on my PC.

I think it's a fine idea to ask the hard questions, but hard questions have limited ability to push the market. At best, I think it allows us to forecast unintended consequences and perhaps formulate mitigation (not avoidance) strategies.

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