Enter the maze

Competitive Zen

Girl's eye concentrating

To become a Jedi Knight you must have complete control of your thoughts. As you feel the force you start to control your surroundings, make objects move just by thinking. Telekinesis is clearly impossible, but could technology give us the same ability? The study of brain-computer interfaces is an active area of research. How can you make a computer sense and react to a person's brain activity in a useful way.

Imagine the game of Mindball. Two competitors face each other across a coffee table. A ball sits at the centre. The challenge is to push the ball to your opponent's end before they push it down to you. The twist is you can use the power of thought alone.

Sound like science fiction? It's not! You can try it out at the Dundee Sensation Science Centre.

Each player wears a headband containing electrodes that pick up your brain waves - specifically alpha and theta waves. They are shown as lines on a monitor for all to see. The more relaxed you are, the more you can shut down your brain, the more your brain wave lines fall to the bottom of the screen and start to flatline together. This signals are linked to a computer that drives competing magnets in the table. They pull the metal ball more strongly towards the most agitated person. The more you relax the more the ball moves away from you...unless of course your opponent can out relax you.

Of course it's not so easy to play. All around the crowd heckle, cheering on their favourite and trying to put off the opponent. You have to ignore it all. You have to think of nothing.

Nothing but calm.

The ball gradually edges away from you. You see you are about to win but your excitement registers, and that makes it all go wrong! The ball hurtles back towards you. Relax again. See nothing. Make everything go black around you. Control your thoughts. Stay relaxed. Millimetre by millimetre the ball edges away again until finally it crosses the line and you have won.

Its not just a game of course. There are some serious uses. It is about whether learning to control your brain - something that helps people trying to overcome addiction, for example. Similar technology can also be used by people who are paralysed, unable to speak, to control a computer. For now though it's about play. It's a lot of fun, just moving a ball apparently by telekinesis. Imagine what mind games will be like when embedded in more complex gaming experiences!

Whatever game you play, may the force be with you.