New brain cap enables mind-controlled video gaming

Researchers have developed a wearable brain-computer interface (BCI) that allows users to play video games using only their thoughts.

Detailed in a recent study published in PNAS Nexus, this innovative device is a black and red cap equipped with electrodes that detect brain waves. Unlike previous BCIs, this cap requires neither extensive calibration nor invasive surgical procedures, making the technology more accessible.

While it's not completely plug-and-play yet, it’s advancing towards that goal. According to a statement released by the University of Texas at Austin, the technology will let users handle the calibration process alone, without assistance from a specialized team.

Traditional BCIs enable users to control computers and robotic prosthetics via brain implants, which require complex surgery with high costs and potential complications.

Non-invasive BCIs, although safer, still typically require significant effort to customize for each user.

Aware of these limitations, the researchers aimed for a "one-size-fits-all solution." They used machine learning to develop a "decoder" based on data from a single "expert" user who played a simple game balancing a digital bar with the BCI.

This decoder was then tested on 18 novice users who, after just five sessions, were able to play not only the bar game but also a car racing game.

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This rapid adaptation is noteworthy since mastering a BCI often takes weeks or months. At a demonstration during the 8-16 March SXSW festival in Austin, several volunteers managed to control two hand and arm rehabilitation robots using the brain cap within minutes.

All subjects in this study were healthy and without motor impairments. To achieve mainstream adoption, the technology must be validated on people with disabilities, the authors noted.

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