University students create the first brain-controlled video game

NeurAlbertaTech, a group of undergraduate students from the University of Alberta have produced the first-ever mind-controlled video game using neurotechnology. The students formed the group to compete in the international NeuroTechX contest and was awarded with fifth-place after spending only two months developing the video game.

The two-dimensional game, called AlphaBlaster, utilizes technology that measures the players’ involvement or connect to the game through a Muse EEG headband. The shooter arcade-style game comes with a difficult twist of only be able to shoot the rifle when the participant reaches a certain level of brain involvement within the game. The 

wearable headband records brain-activity and feeds this data to the player’s computer, where the game responds to this information.

Abdel Tayem, Founder of the project explains, “previous research has shown outstanding evidence that alpha frequencies can be used as a measure of attention. When alpha wave power is high, the person is usually not attending to the task at hand and vice-versa. We use this reading so the game can measure activity in real-time and wirelessly change the action of player based on brain activity.”

The EEG headband, which is generally used for therapy and meditation reasons, means that NeurAlbertaTech can create games not just for able-body players, a goal for the team for the future. Although it will still probably be a while before AlphaBlaster is available for retail to the public, there is much hype surrounding the technology and the prospects thereof.

NeurAlbertaTech member, Nicole Wlasitz comments on the difference this technology would make adding, “It’s really exciting for people who have limited mobility or aren’t able to interact with the computer in the normal keyboard and mouse kind of input way. The doors that this opens for gaming for them is really huge.”

With more development, this technology could be used for so much more than a video game and could change the lives of many.

Kyle Mathewson, Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, spoke of the students’ impressive work saying, “Neurotechnology is important as our field of neuroscience matures towards helping people in their everyday lives. We now know enough about the brain and have sophisticated equipment that can measure and understand brain activity—and we need to put that knowledge to work helping people. NeurAlbertaTech’s project represents a great opportunity for students to not only help people but also to get their hands dirty and make something outside the classroom.”