Personal Neuro Devices Inc. has developed apps that, in conjunction with a special headpiece, allow users to move on-screen objects using only their thoughts.
The company is delving into the world of mobile gaming, but CEO Steve Denison says its not a gaming company and that this is only the beginning of the technology’s capabilities.
Brain science has developed over the past decade so that small, portable devices can read one’s brain activity, instead of having to book an appointment in a lab where an EEG-machine would take up the entire room.
In the future, personal EEG devices could be used to anticipate oncoming strokes or other health problems, conduct mood analysis and determine what triggers depression.
But before arriving there, the company is having a little bit of fun.
UpCake, an Android app released on Google Play in April, is the first game of its kind developed specifically for females – the “Katy Perry demographic,” as Mr. Denison phrases it, of girls aged 10 to 20 who are often attracted to bright colours.
Users concentrate their brain waves to force a cupcake upwards on their screen amidst various obstacles. The app analyses brainwave data gathered from the headset to determine how the object will move.
The decision to create a female-focused game began when the company rented out an office in the Glebe last year and opened its doors for users to come in and test its technology.
Boys who tried a similar version of the game (before the cupcake theme had been decided) weren’t actively engaged in the activity.
“For girls, it was totally different,” Mr. Denison says. “They weren’t all that interested in video games, they definitely weren’t interested in shooter games, but they became quickly and intensely engaged in our games.”
With almost 1,000 downloads on Google Play, UpCake trains brains to concentrate then relax their thinking muscles. This strengthens neurological pathways and allows users to learn how to switch from anxiety to calm, Mr. Denison says – a skill that could come in handy while navigating the adolescent world.
UpCake 2.0 will be released at a later date, and to help develop iterations as well as additional mobile apps, the company will open its doors to the public again.
Beginning on Aug. 16, visitors can experiment with released and development-stage apps by walking into the company’s office at 99 Fifth Ave. Their feedback will be used in the development of future products, Mr. Denison says.
Personal Neuro Devices employs 10 people in Ottawa, and one in San Jose who works alongside NeuroSky Inc., the manufacturer of the EEG-measuring headpiece.
Users can purchase the headset, called MindWave, online. The device is small and looks similar to headphones with a band of plastic stretching into the middle of the forehead.