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Could The Force be with you? A toy due in stores this fall will let you test and hone your Jedi-like abilities. The Force Trainer (expected to be priced at $90 to $100) comes with a headset that uses brain waves to allow players to manipulate a sphere within a clear 10-inch-tall training tower, analogous to Yoda and Luke Skywalker's abilities in the Star Wars films.
No, you're not tapping into some "all-powerful force controlling everything," as Han Solo said in the movies. But you are reaching out with mind power via one of the first mass-market brain-to-computer products. "It's been a fantasy everyone has had, using The Force," says Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing.
Mind-control games may be the coming thing: Mattel plans to demonstrate a Mind Flex game (also due this fall), which uses brain-wave activity to move a ball through a tabletop obstacle course, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday.
In the Force Trainer, a wireless headset reads your brain activity, in a simplified version of EEG medical tests, and the circuitry translates it to physical action. If you focus well enough, the training sphere, which looks like a ping-pong ball, will rise in the tower. A state of deep concentration is needed to achieve a Force-full effect. "When you concentrate, it activates the training remote," says Frank Adler of toymaker Uncle Milton Industries, which is creating the Trainer. "There is a flow of air that will move the (ball). You can actually feel like you are in a zone."
Star Wars sound effects and audio clips emitted from the base unit "cue you in to progress to the next level (from Padawan to Jedi) or when to move the sphere up or down to keep challenging yourself," Adler says.
"Until today, EEG technology has been designed for rigorous medical and clinical applications with little regard to price (and) ease of use," says Greg Hyver of NeuroSky, which developed the brain-wave technology for both games. "We are putting this exciting technology into everyone's living room."