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Exclusive Interview with MindGames CEO Deepa Iyengar (Part 2 of 2)

This is the sequel of our exclusive interview with Deepa Iyengar, CEO of MindGames, the company behind the  innovative Tug of Mind game. Tug of Mind (available in the Apple AppStore since December, 2010) is the very first iPhone app to use brain-computer interface technology -such as PLX XWave and NeuroSky MindSet- as a control method.

The 1st part of this interview introduced the game itself and the main ideas behind its concept. In this second part we’re trying to go further from development related questions toward more general topics concerning the BCI market.

Neurogadget: Please tell us more about the collaboration with the Digimi team, who were the providers of the 3D face-imaging technology that was implemented in your game.

Deepa Iyengar: The Digimi team were very helpful and responsive. What their technology provides is the ability to turn one photograph of a head into a very good 3D head model, and they provide this service to game companies. Tug of Mind was the first iPhone app to use their technology. As a result, we worked with them to design head models which would take little time to create, and would run well on iPhone (and this was in the days before iPhone 3G), while still looking very real. We then worked with them to design a few morphs with the right expressions, and on our end we animated emotional expression and mouth movement between these morphs.

Can you tell the readers how many Tug of Mind users are out there approximately?

Deepa Iyengar: Tug of Mind came out just before Christmas, and up to now we have not sold as many copies as there (probably) are XWave owners, but we have not yet begun our media campaign.

What’s your next plan? A sequel to Tug of Mind or a completely different application?

At the end of this month, look for a native iPad version of Tug of Mind, as well as a new game, which we designed to give XWave users a variety of fun experiences which will help them master the headset’s “meditation” and “attention” functions. Tug of Mind can be found in the “Health and Fitness” section of the App Store, whereas the new game will be in the “Gaming” section.

What are your short term and long term expectations for the brain-computer interface market? Do you anticipate BCI devices to become popular accesories for computers and mobiles in the near future?

In the short term (2-3 years), I expect to see more interfaces available, with more price points, though it will take 3 years to go below US$100. In this period, good games and apps will drive popular adoption, among gamers especially, of these devices, despite the awkwardness of their design (inevitable for first-generation devices of any sort). In the longer term (5-10 years), a few BCI markets will be well-defined, and the devices will be optimized for the needs of these markets. I don’t think BCI devices will become standard accessories for computers and mobiles in this period, unless one of the BCI markets is sufficiently popular. Ultimately, universal adoption would probably only happen when people can “plug in” using a socket on the back of their necks and have the computer understand what is wanted, without any effort on the person’s part…

Many people still afraid of the BCI technology because they don’t want any connection between their mind and a computer. What would be your reassuring message to them?

The current state of the art of consumer BCI does not really tell the computer very much about your mind, rather, just gives some general information about your mental state. However, it is true that that sort of information can be used by advertisers to tune their ad content (this field is called “neuromarketing“). It will be a longer time before BCI can actually “read what you are thinking,” particularly in a version which is easy and affordable for consumers. The plug on the back of the neck would still be at least 30 years away.

MindGames, however, is not interested in the plug in the back of the neck which would allow the computer to read your mind, which is probably the closest equivalent to going back to the womb – a time when all was provided for you. What we aim to do instead is to use BCI to enable humans to improve their own ability to deal with life. In the end, if you play our games and apps enough, you should be able to leave the BCI headset at home and use your new skills of mental regulation to help you live well.

What is your favorite BCI application? (beside Tug of Mind of course)

I really like Universal Mediaman’s Dagaz Project. If you have any desire to meditate, and also a desire to create, you can use Dagaz to spend 10, 20, or 30 minutes drawing mandalas with your mind.

Neurogadget wants to thank to Deepa Iyengar for answering these questions. We wish further success to MindGames company!

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