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Do your friends complain that you can’t pull your eyes away from your iPhone? Well, if you get the new XWave by PLX Devices, then you might have trouble pulling your brain away, too. The peripheral, released in November for $99, brings an EEG-based brain-computer interface (BCI) to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users at an affordable price. Based on NeuroSky’s Mindset, XWave gives you the power to manipulate various apps with brain rhythms. While you can’t text or browse the web with it yet, the XWave represents an important step in bringing BCI to the masses. Also, with the falling cost and increasing spatial resolution of brain-imaging technology, it’s exciting to ponder what powerful BCI devices we’ll be able to get for $99 in the future.
Similar to other products based on the NeuroSky Mindset, the XWave applies an algorithm to your brain rhythms to convert them to meditation and attention values. If your rating in either of these categories is high enough, you can manipulate variables on the screen. Previous applications of this technology have been computer games, toys, and even youth Jedi training. While BCI for the consumer market is nothing new, XWave is the first device that combines NeuroSky technology with a widely adopted platform, opening the door to large scale exposure to BCI. Also, it has some cool apps to boot.
For those new to NeuroSky, there’s a starter app called XWave. It takes a little practice to get in sync with your brainwaves, so this app instills the basic neurophysiological skill set required to excel in XWave’s other programs. People have expressed difficulty getting used to the NeuroSky system in the past, so this app is a must.
In the video below is an example of the visualizer you would see on the standard XWave app. On the left is a graphical representation of brain waves with the color and shape changing depending on which rhythms and frequencies you’re projecting at any given moment. The top-right corner shows the frequency distribution derived from the EEG signal, which is concurrently side-scrolling in the background. Finally there’s the attention and meditation ratings that look like two little speedometers. When either of these are above 90, the meter starts flashing, indicating that your neuro-cognitive powers have peaked. It definitely beats trying to interpret EEG signals on your own, and it’s a lot prettier, too.
To help build your neural resiliency, there’s the Tug of Mind developed by MindGames, LLC. You can take a picture and record the voice of an actual person (friend or worst enemy), and the app renders a digital representation. As the 3D face goes through various threatening facial expressions and sounds, the app measures your meditation and attention to see if you can keep your cool. Feeling stressed out by a co-worker? Maybe try this app, and let your anxiety melt away in the face of your adversary’s harmless 3D rendering. With minor tweaks, I could see this app being used to instill anti-bullying strategies in children. It couldn’t be any less effective than these tactics.