Stanford researchers create controller that they say can read your mind

Engineers at California university modify Xbox 360 controller with physiological detectors to gauge your brain activity and adjust the game accordingly.

Could the controller of tomorrow read our minds and be able to adjust gameplay experiences when we get bored, sad, or excited? That future might not be too far away. Engineers at Stanford University today say they have uncovered the "next step in interactive gaming" through a controller that gauges the player's brain activity and adjusts gameplay experiences accordingly.

Stanford's prototype controller was created by Corey McCall, a doctoral candidate of electrical engineering professor Gregory Kovac. McCall modified a standard Xbox 360 controller by popping off the back panel and replacing it with a "3D printed plastic module" that features sensors that measure a player's heart rate and blood flow, as well as rate of breath and how deeply a person is breathing. A light-operated sensor can track a second heart rate measurement, while built-in accelerometers measure the rate at which you shake the controller.

At the same time, proprietary software gauges the intensity of a game--in this case the simple rhythm/racing game Audiosurf Overture. Using physiological data gathered using the controller, researchers can then assess a player's overall level of mental engagement with the game.

"You can see the expression of a person's autonomic nervous system in their heart rate and skin temperature and respiration rate, and by measuring those outputs, we can understand what's happening in the brain almost instantaneously," McCall said in a Stanford news release.

McCall first demonstrated his controller at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year. He says that by gathering such biometric feedback, developers can create more immersive worlds by, for example, adding new enemies to a level when a player begins to feel too comfortable. There are also implications for parents concerned about how engrossed their child is becoming in a game, he says.

"If a player wants maximum engagement and excitement, we can measure when they are getting bored and, for example, introduce more zombies into the level," McCall said. "We can also control the game for children. If parents are concerned that their children are getting too wrapped up in the game, we can tone it down or remind them that it's time for a healthy break."

Of course, biometric controllers are not new. Half-Life studio Valve has tested biofeedback support for a new controller, while one of the PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 prototypes included sensors that detected how much a player would sweat during a game session. No mainstream controller, however, has ever featured any kind of biometric feedback system. It also remains to be seen how expensive biometric controllers are to create.

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
74 comments
MrFacepunch
MrFacepunch

I would be much more interested in this that any VR device. But I would still be ok if neither came to fruition.

HiddenWarrior
HiddenWarrior

Read your mind ?!

First, the title is incorrect.

Second, a device that can read your mind has been around long time ago. Aside that, it is still incomplete gimmick.

Emotiv Epoc and OpenBCI are good examples...

nurnberg
nurnberg

The NSA must really be interested.  This controller can work as a lie detector.  With the the kinect camera, it makes a nice spying combo.

steelmouth
steelmouth

Sound like Kinect 3 and at this rate kinect 4 will be full mind control no more waving hands or controllers, SMDFH how boring that sound 

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Oh yeah and Eddie, stop telling lies in the titles; it's getting annoying.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Too bad they didn't figure out how to read my mind before they made this thing.


Why do I get the feeling they really don't play video games?

The over-arching reason why this whole thing is a stupid idea is this:  Different people want different things from their games, even relative to how their feeling about their gaming experience at that particular time.

Some examples:

1.  I like my games to be really pretty hard, I find it difficult to extract any satisfaction from a game if I'm not first frustrated by it.  Other people will play the same game, and immediately be turned off by the feeling of frustration.  A technology like this doesn't make a game more "immersive", it makes it more monotonous and less rewarding.

2.  There *should* be a natural ebb and flow to the difficulty of a game.  Games aren't just one linear slope from one difficulty to another, there needs to be places where you know you're going to have to be sharp to stay alive and there are places where you enjoy not having to worry about being cut in half every other second, there's a level of predictability, which brings me on to my next point.

3.  Some people just *like* repetition.  There are many gamers out there (I'm tempted to say a majority, especially among the confirmed huge numbers of single-player fans) that just like things to be the same time and time again.  Some gamers find it hard to feel progress unless they're facing the same obstacles over and over every time they play through a certain area, and without this sense of progression, they lose a large part of what makes their satisfaction possible.


I think in the end, when it comes down to it, people just prefer to not have their mind read when they're playing a game, and I'm sure many people will just find ways to trick the sensors into giving them the gaming experience they want in the end anyway.  There's no market for a new gaming technology that costs extra and that works "in the background" without players ever seeing any difference.

People don't just like to be faster than the game, they like to be smarter than it too.  They'll take the game however it is, but I predict they won't like the idea of giving it a third-party advantage.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

90% of the world find technology too difficult to deal with because there's just too many buttons to push. This solves that problem by removing all the buttons. Now, even a buffoon can enjoy a good game of CoD after work.

ksbwings
ksbwings

Here is an interesting topic........Really good idea and I wish you go for it.


it's just the beginning who know....there might be an interesting games build up for this methods.


thumb up

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

Another useless gimmick no one needs.

Hurvl
Hurvl

Funded by the NSA (and other tinfoil hat claims). Lol, why you use kinect, when you can you can use your mind. The VR industry really needs to take a look at this, because moving in a VR game is still quite awkward I would assume.

BFKZ
BFKZ

This wont work for me, I am basically a potato with no emotions when iam playing.

Mega_Skrull
Mega_Skrull

Wellcome to Eddiespot, where headlines are no longer misleading, but just blatant lies.

Bond_Villain
Bond_Villain

Ooohhhh, first the Kinect spies on your living room, now they want to know your thoughts!



Butt_Chunx
Butt_Chunx

This and Micro$oft is a bad combination...

Shelledfade1
Shelledfade1

A controller that controls you, by limiting your gameplay if it detects certain hand temps and pulse readings and what the hell ever? F*** that lol that's worse than DRM.

Also eddie, this thing doesn't read your mind, god your titles are terribly misleading. You're supposed to report news and facts not mislead your readers.

rarson
rarson

Nintendo was doing biofeedback back in the 90's with the N64. Yes, this isn't anything new at all.

stage4saiyan
stage4saiyan

It's still better than the Move, Kinect, or Wiimote.

tonytones21
tonytones21

Nope controller from the Nope console, fabricated in nopesville.

SingletreeAve
SingletreeAve

Possibly the worst idea ever for practical gaming.  Obviously invented by a bunch of academics who don't game.  Imagine a Dark Souls where the bosses become easier as your heart rate increases.  Variable behavior based on biometric feedback is ludicrous and will make it impossible to create balanced games.

vader501st
vader501st

Psycho Mantis is going to have a hard on with that.

Pewbert
Pewbert

Combined with an Oculus Rift and we are good to go ...

SphinxDemon
SphinxDemon

I really don't appreciate the title of this article. I get too excited for nothing

da_chub
da_chub

All this work just to make auto aim work better on call of duty.

But seriously...I just want controllers that are accurate when you "push the button". Like wii mote with the rift in my pc. Make that work.

ECH71
ECH71

Your secrets' last refuge -- why can't they leave our minds alone.

dribblesbarbax
dribblesbarbax

Well done Eddie. No where in the article does any researcher from Stanford claim that the device can read peoples minds.

sortajan
sortajan

and deliver your treasonous thoughts to the government

hikaruai
hikaruai

Another idiotic article by Eddie...btw sine u made this tripe I guess Ill post this in your article...The new mobile site layout is horrendous!

Gallowhand
Gallowhand

This kind of tech wouldn't work for me, then, because I have COPD and I'm always short of breath. :P

tomservo51
tomservo51

The controller assumes you are thinking about sex and is 90% accurate.

mattcake
mattcake

Not even I understand what goes on in my mind, so good luck controller thingy.

BloodLine52
BloodLine52

It better not be able to tell when I'm drunk or I'll never be able to play games again!

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

@kitmeep oh god, Fifa could get a bit iffy... "The striker enters the 6 yard box... aand he's fondling the goalkeeper."

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

@Shelledfade1 Nah he's supposed to get the comment & view numbers up... Which he's clearly doing a good job of.

jimmy_russell
jimmy_russell

Right, because in the 90's they perfected the technology and it can't possibly get any better over the next 20 years of development. That's sarcasm, in case you're slow.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@SingletreeAve I don't want a game to adjust to what it thinks I want, that's worse than autolevelling enemies. I'll adapt to the game, not the other way around.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@Gallowhand Yeah, even if it wasn't so primitive it would still make generalizations that would stop the game from being fun. Everyone doesn't work the same way and they might not want the same stimulus when their heart rate increases. That is pandering to the absurd.

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@BloodLine52 With my luck, the game'll stop and the protagonist will turn to me and say "Dude, really?  Another?" 


Or it'll make you hook up with Flemeth or something.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@Sl4cka @HurvlI read the article, I just chose to point out some alternative ways this research could continue in and also making fun of conspiracy theorists with the NSA remark.

rarson
rarson

@jimmy_russell  

I'm not saying that they perfected the technology, I'm saying that the idea is old and that actual, working devices were created at least two decades ago.