A group of university students from Alberta, Canada, have created the first brain-controlled video game using neurotechnology. The team, called NeurAlbertaTech, consists of a handful of undergraduate students from the University of Alberta, who began working on this project to compete in an international NeuroTechX contest. While the project took home fifth place after just two months of development, the technology and design behind the video game is making waves and gaining publicity around the world.
The two-dimensional side-scrolling shooter is called AlphaBlaster, and uses technology to measure the player’s connection to the game. Once the player reaches a certain threshold of brain activity or involvement, the character in the game will fire their gun. It’s a simple arcade-style shooter with an incredibly complex twist. The measurements are taken using a wearable device, called a Muse EEG headband, and then transferred to the player’s computer, where the game reacts to the information. These headbands are often used for meditation and therapy purposes, but NeuroTechX were happy to provide the equipment for this unique project.
Founder of the project, Abdel Tayem, explained this method by saying, “previous research has shown outstanding evidence that alpha frequencies can be used as a measure of attention. When alpha wave power is high, the person is usually not attending to the task at hand and vice-versa. We use this reading so the game can measure activity in real time and wirelessly change the action of player based on brain activity.”
Rather than trying to break down the science behind the game here, we suggest watching this video from NeurAlbertaTech themselves.
While this version of the game may not be made available to the public anytime soon, the team are currently working on a plan for something more accessible to everyday gamers. The hope for AlphaBlaster, and any future projects they work on, is to create games that can be enjoyed by everyone – not just the physically-able.
“It’s really exciting for people who have limited mobility or aren’t able to interact with the computer in the normal keyboard and mouse kind of input way,” said psychology student, Nicole Wlasitz. “The doors that this opens for gaming for them is really huge.”
Wlasitz, along with other members of NeurAlbertaTech, believe that this technology can extend much further than video games, including use in prosthetics. An Assistant Professor, by the name of Kyle Mathewson, worked with the students from NeurAlbertaTech in order to guide them through the process of developing AlphaBlaster. In a recent interview, Mathewson echoed these same ideas.
“Neurotechnology is important as our field of neuroscience matures towards helping people in their everyday lives. We now know enough about the brain and have sophisticated equipment that can measure and understand brain activity—and we need to put that knowledge to work helping people. NeurAlbertaTech’s project represents a great opportunity for students to not only help people, but also to get their hands dirty and make something outside the classroom.”– Kyle Mathewson, Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta
With a few more years of research and development, we could experience life-altering technology, thanks to a handful of young geniuses with a dream. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next! If you want to learn more about NeurAlbertaTech and their project AlphaBlaster, you can visit their website or follow them on social media.