Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
For some, there’s nothing cooler than the idea of controlling computer software directly with your mind. No buttons, no keyboard, no mouse—just a link from your brain straight to your computer that translates thoughts into onscreen actions. Technology isn’t there yet, but NeuroSky’s Brainwave Starter Kit is taking us in that direction. Or, at least, it’s trying to.
The main component of the Brainwave Starter Kit is the Mindwave Mobile headset. Originally released about a year ago in a slightly pricier package, the Mindwave Mobile somewhat resembles a pair of headphones, but it relies on two sensors—one that presses against your forehead and one that clips to your ear—to measure your brainwave patterns. By determining your levels of focus and/or relaxation, the headset interprets those patterns as input for various types of software.
Though that all sounds neat in theory, it’s less enjoyable in practice. The headset is fairly unobtrusive at first, but it gets uncomfortable after extended use, particularly the ear clip. (I don’t know if you can bruise your earlobe, but if you can, I’m pretty sure mine’s been bruised.) Furthermore, I got very inconsistent results as far as my brainwaves were concerned. Certainly, the included software proved that my mental patterns were being measured and transmitted, but usually when I tried to initiate action by concentrating or relaxing, I didn’t get the desired result. I could think about maxing out my “focus meter” until I was blue in the face, but the software typically refused to acknowledge that I had achieved any significant level of concentration. (Relaxing, at least, was easier.)
The Brainwave Starter Kit also failed to impress with its included Mac software. The Brainwave Visualizer is mildly educational, but there’s not much to do with it other than watch the colorful waveforms, and the Speed Math app is even less exciting; you merely perform math calculations and, afterward, the program displays a chart of how mentally focused you were during the proceedings—there’s no interactive component using the headset at all.
The dodgy functionality and lackluster software could be forgiven if there were other compelling reasons to get the Brainwave Starter Kit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We sampled some additional Mac apps, but they mostly amounted to unsatisfying video clips that branched based on how much you were concentrating or relaxing. The Mindwave Mobile works with iOS devices, too, but that had its own set of problems. The Bluetooth headset was reluctant to pair with my iPhone, and two of the paid apps we tested (28 Spoons Later and BrainCopter) were very repetitive and got old within minutes. A third iOS app titled W.I.L.D. (which consists of a series of quirky microgames) was entertaining, but it’s hardly a compelling reason to buy the device.
The bottom line. NeuroSky’s Brainwave Starter Kit is an interesting curiosity, but that’s about all it is right now. Maybe brainwave-based input will become worthwhile once the right software is released, but for now we’ll be sticking to our touchscreens and keyboards.
Intel processor, OS X 10.6.5 or later, Intel GMA900 graphics card or better; or iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (third gen 32GB or later) running iOS 4.3.3 or later
Unique, interesting, and somewhat educational.
Hard to get consistent results. Bland included software. Pricey for what it does. Uncomfortable with extended use.