“Mind-reading” video game controllers are nothing new. The Atari Mindlink introduced the concept to gaming in 1983. Trephining and plunging electrodes through spurting skull holes was not the prerequisite: the Mindlink was a crock, actually controlled by a series of forehead waggles and facial tics. Then, last year, there was the Neurosky… Mindlink Mach II. Now Gizmodo’s spotted a new one: the OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator.
To begin with, you probably only want to map a single event to your games, but as your confidence improves you’ll be able to do more and give your hands a break. And as the NIA can speed up response times (200ms to click fire, 100ms to think it), it means you’ll be more efficient at shooting before getting shot.
We got to use the device for an extended play in the wonderfully frenetic Unreal Tournament 3, and the buzz you get when you knock up your first frag is every bit as stunning as it is scary.
It seems to be getting mostly positive reviews, but it’s just another Mindlink: it basically just monitors your forehead muscles. When are people going to learn?
I think, ultimately, the idea that neurologically commanded video game controllers will somehow be more intuitive than their digitally handled counterparts is a phlegmatic huff on the magic jaybone of wishful thinking. People seem to assume that if such a controller comes along, looking around in a video game will be as easy as turning your head in real life. Obviously, it can’t be that simple: if you send the same mental signal to look around in a game as you do to move your head, you’ll quickly find yourself looking away from the screen. You’ll need to train your brain to send a message to the controller to make you look around in the game. But I already know how to send that message: I tell my thumb to wiggle on the D-Pad. Simple. Direct brain controllers, even in theory, simply convolute the remarkable elegance of moving a mouse or thumbing a trigger button.
Image: Atari Museum