OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator is just another Atari Mindlink

"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. OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator [Buy] Image: Atari Museum
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11 Responses to OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator is just another Atari Mindlink

  1. Unregistered says:

    The nia does directly measure alpha and beta brain waves, however, brain waves are not precisely timed which makes them a bit difficult to use in games that require precision timing of events. Note that there is a difference between a device not being able to do something and a deliberate decision by the user to not use that particular aspect.

    Also, I am somewhat surprised by the author’s pushing his “muscle only” theory. Muscle signals are the easiest ones to control for beginners but there are other signals that are used by the nia as well, even for game control, especially the autonomous nervous system and the reflexes it triggers, not to mention the skin responses that are much more holistic than just “voluntary muscle movements” as the author wants to make us believe.

    Also, just because another source (engadget) also quotes the information wrongly, that doesn’t make it right.

  2. Rob Beschizza says:

    Anonymous, naughty naughty.

    He didn’t say “nothing more.” We’re well aware that these devices do purport to measure things other than muscle responses.

    They rely, however, on muscle movements, a point best highlighted by pointing out how if they were actually useful as brainwave monitors, no such input would be required at all. This is typically obscured somewhat by using a nice $10 word, “electromyography.”

    Neurosky admitted this about it’s own headset: http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/12/neurosky-repeat.html#more

    We’re to the point with Atari Mindlink clones that skepticism about “brainwave reading” is a reasonable default position.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m still looking forward to these devices, as I’m a gamer with arthritis of the thumbs (no foolin! entropy sucks!)


  4. Renwick says:

    Reminds me of the biofeedback videogames I read about. Does anyone know if they are any good?
    Here is one:

    I think there was an arcade game mentioned on boingboing that did something similar.

  5. decultured says:

    While it does appear this particular device may not directly measure brain wave activity, there are similar devices being developed that work in the same way as an EEG. While I too am skeptical of their application in the gaming world, I am nonetheless excited that such devices are not only becoming affordable for home use, but are being marketed as entertainment devices.

    These devices are no where near accurate enough for precision work (which includes most video game control schemes), but the idea that the devices will be available to the hacking community at affordable prices is something worth looking forward to. I am very interested to see what people come up with.

  6. Rob Beschizza says:

    Decultured, you’re right, and I’ve been trying to find the particular company that’s doing the more advanced EEG helmets all afternoon! My google-do fails me.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Rob Beschizza, you may be referring to the Emotiv Epoch, a similar product with more sensors. Here is a recent article from Technology Review that discusses and compares the products from OCZ, NeuroSky, and Emotiv.


    It looks like the Epoch is the most promising in terms of true BCI (although it can probably also use EMG and EOG ‘artifacts’ as input). We will have to see for ourselves once the product is released in late ’08.

  8. Gink says:

    I am disabled (inactive left upper). This WILL change my life :)

  9. John Brownlee says:

    Anonymous is a pretty clear astroturfer. Anyway, I link the review where Engadget states it mostly seems to measure forehead contortion, not brainwaves. That’s hardly a “lie…” I’m citing someone with direct experience with the product.

  10. Anonymous says:

    That article does not support the BOLD claim you made in this post. Until you have evidence that the device measures muscle twitches and nothing more, you would do well to stop spreading misinformation. Trusting your judgment, I already told one person about this, and I now feel ASHAMED–as you should feel–for having told someone lies.

  11. John Brownlee says:

    Anonymous, that’s an awesome point which I somehow completely overlooked: if they can master this tech, it’s great for the handicapped. And for the arthritic gamer, even waggling the forehead is better than not playing at all. I’ll try to keep that in mind, although I wish these companies would just market these devices as such.

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