As Featured in The Independent
Short attention span? Biofeedback video games aim to get you focused
Thursday, 6 January 2012
A biofeedback device dubbed BodyWave that aims to train your brain to focus. Renowned science and technology magazine Popular Science reported on the system in its online edition on January 4.
The brain-wave scanner, devised last fall and designed to be worn on an arm or leg, works by tracking brain-wave activity as you play 3D games or perform virtual-reality simulations. “When synapses fire, they release electrical pulses that move through the body,” states the article. About the size of an iPhone, uses three dry carbon sensors that contact the skin and search for brainwave activity. The brain produces beta-level waves at frequencies of 12 to 30 hertz when the user is concentrating, according to neurologists.
The system comes complete with software, which includes a few 3D games and virtual reality simulations, and is currently being used to coach children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. During use, if a player becomes bored or distracted, the video game stops functioning correctly until the player can regain his or her focus. A red bar at the top of the screen relays concentration levels, signaling dips in focus, and an automated voice offers positive reinforcements when a player is in the zone.
Future applications? Popular Science stated that an equipped golf club could help players stay in the game, or a steering wheel could signal sleepy drivers when it’s time to pull over. Alternatively, the system could track drivers with road rage problems, alerting them to when their anger levels are reaching the danger zone.
This isn’t the first device that uses biofeedback and video games to train the brain – in fact NASA pioneered the technique to measure brain activity in pilots during flight simulation exercises.