Technology with attitude

Mind vs Muscles: Emotiv Controlled Pong Helps to Develop Future Factories (video)

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This is not the first mind-controlled Pong we have seen, but the only reinterpretation so far that comes with a real table, real ball and physical racquets. One of the players uses an Emotiv EPOC brain-computer interface headset to move the racquet, while the other player moves its own in a more traditional way, by pressing a lever with muscular power.

The CogniGame is more like an experimental concept work than a real toy. It has been created by Festo, a leading manufacturer of pneumatic and electromechanical systems. They have totally reinvented the classic Pong on a real court built using Festo components. As you can see the whole system has a nice high-end, high quality look.

But how the game works?

Two linear axes whose drives move to the left and right along the baselines move the racquets to return the ball and keep it in play.

One player controls his racquet by thought alone via the EEG headset. This measures voltage fluctuations on the surface of the head via attached electrodes. Opposite that person, a second player moves his or her racquet in a more traditional way, by pressing a lever using muscular power.

For the game, Festo has developed a software solution (CogniWare) for controlling a racquet using thoughts and bio signals. It establishes a communication channel between the brain and hardware without any interaction from the user via voice or input devices. CogniWare now offers the possibility of switching between training and game modes. In training mode, the user is prompted to produce the thought patterns “left” and “right” in order to move his bat in the desired direction.

In combination with its graphical user interface, CogniWare also determines the course of play by defining the start and the end of the game. This software also controls the speed of the game as well as the degree of difficulty for the opponent, as well as checking the connection quality of the individual electrodes on the player’s headset and relaying the commands to the CPX unit.

Factories of the Future

People at Festo claim that the work on CogniGame has practical applications for the factory of the future by addressing the question of how people and machines can interact more efficiently in the face of constantly changing technologies. Even in the factory of tomorrow, not all work sequences will be fully automated. New operating concepts are needed to enable people to communicate more quickly, more directly and more easily with the technology: from joystick solutions through voice input to controlling partial sequences using thoughts.

As well as demonstrating human-machine interaction in the CogniGame, Festo has also developed an artistic interpretation of the factory of the future with the Sound Machines 2.0, an intelligent, robot-controlled sound installation consisting of five self-playing musical instruments that records a melody, uses it to compose a new piece of music and plays it live. They have also developed a Bionic Handling Assistant, a flexible assistance system based on an elephant’s trunk, which won the German Future Award in 2010.

Combining the CogniGame with Festo’s ExoHand -an exoskeleton that can be worn like a glove- opens new possibilities in rehabilitation. In stroke therapy, for example, the hand orthosis can be used to help treat the first signs of paralysis in patients. It can be used together with a brain-computer interface to create a closed feedback loop. It can help stroke patients who are showing the first signs of paralysis to restore the missing connection between brain and hand.

An EEG signal from the brain indicates the patient’s desire to open or close the hand. The active hand orthosis then performs the movement. The result is a training effect, which over time helps patients to move their hand again without any technical assistance. Festo is working together with the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience on this subject.

To learn more about the real-life Pong, visit the Festo website or download their detailed PDF brochure of CogniGame.