Mind-reading toys. What could go wrong?
A convincing twin of Darth Vader stalks the beige cubicles of a Silicon Valley office, complete with ominous black mask, cape and light saber.
But this is no chintzy Halloween costume. It's a prototype, years in the making, of a toy that incorporates brain wave-reading technology.
Behind the mask is a sensor that touches the user's forehead and reads the brain's electrical signals, then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the saber, which lights up when the user is concentrating. The player maintains focus by channeling thoughts on any fixed mental image, or thinking specifically about keeping the light sword on. When the mind wanders, the wand goes dark.
Of course, the big question is whether or not these games are more fun.
It's also unclear whether consumers, particularly American kids, want mentally taxing games.
"It's hard to tell whether playing games with biofeedback is more fun -- the company executives say that, but I don't know if I believe them," said Ben Sawyer, director of the Games for Health Project, a division of the Serious Games Initiative.
Games are generally meant to be diversions, mental distractions.
In my opinion, the really cool application for this technology will be a device that allows two humans to receive feedback on each others' thoughts.