Science!, We Can Do That Now!

We Can Do That Now: Neurogaming

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with the world of Science! here at the Eclectic Eccentric and a recent conversation got me jazzed to jump back into it with a new installment of We Can Do That Now! Where I discuss something incredibly cool: Neurogaming. Something so cutting edge spellcheck is telling me it’s not a word.

I’m gonna go ahead and interpret that as a sign that I should start with a definition. What is Neurogaming? Well it’s a cutting edge branch of the videogame industry that seeks to use Brain Control Interfaces (BCIs) to create comprehensive and immersive gaming experiences. Still a little vague? Don’t worry so is the industry. Neurogaming is still in its infancy and the term has pretty broad coverage. Neurogaming sensors collect a wide range of data about you including measuring things like your heart rate, brain waves, and emotional state. Sensors can also pick up on physical cues such as gestures and pupil dilation. All of this data is then processed and integrated into the game making for a highly adaptive and personalized gaming experience.

The technologies have a wide range of applications. Medical professionals see opportunities to treat PTSD, ADHD as well as monitor overall brain health and improve attention and cognitive performance. Military officials at DARPA have used Neurogaming to increase sniper accuracy, simulate combat experience, and believe that they might be able to monitor for PTSD symptoms in real time. Even professional sports teams are getting in the action using recently developed technologies to simulate actual game play allowing athletes to get additional mental reps and avoid unnecessary wear and tear on their bodies. These are just some examples of potential uses in reality no one is quite sure just how far these technologies might take us.

We’ve heard about revolutionary virtual reality tech before going all the way back to the 80’s so why would this time be any different? Well it’s the convergence of multiple factors really. The first being the immense processing power we have at our disposal now. Every year sees an exponential increase in what our computers can do and we’ve finally gotten to a point where they can handle processing immense amounts of data while simultaneously rendering these complex environments. Coupled with the increase in computing power is the availability of a myriad of far more sensitive sensors at a far lower price. Making technologies formerly available only to deep pockets now (somewhat) easily purchased by emerging startups and consumers. Throw in some recent breakthroughs in haptic technology that make the rumble pack look positively antiquated and you have a confluence of events that will revolutionize not only how we play games in the next decade but also the role those games play in our society.

While right now these games might be limited to simple tasks such as baking cakes or throwing trucks with your mind over the long run these technologies are the key to giving us completely immersive environments such as what you might see in one of Star Trek’s Holodecks. So Neurogaming We Can Do That Now!