May The Force Be With You

If you can’t concentrate you may not win your next light sword battle or make your next put:

Behind the mask is a sensor that touches the user’s forehead and reads the brain’s electrical signals, then sends them to a wireless receiver inside the saber, which lights up when the user is concentrating. The player maintains focus by channeling thoughts on any fixed mental image, or thinking specifically about keeping the light sword on. When the mind wanders, the wand goes dark.

Technology from NeuroSky and other startups could make video games more mentally stimulating and realistic. It could even enable players to control video game characters or avatars in virtual worlds with nothing but their thoughts.
Adding biofeedback to “Tiger Woods PGA Tour,” for instance, could mean that only those players who muster Zen-like concentration could nail a put. In the popular action game “Grand Theft Auto,” players who become nervous or frightened would have worse aim than those who remain relaxed and focused.
NeuroSky’s prototype measures a person’s baseline brain-wave activity, including signals that relate to concentration, relaxation and anxiety. The technology ranks performance in each category on a scale of 1 to 100, and the numbers change as a person thinks about relaxing images, focuses intently, or gets kicked, interrupted or otherwise distracted.

Read the rest of the article for the beginnings of what could be an interesting debate over both intended and unintended benefits of bringing biofeedback to the popular market.

Will learning to keep a light sword bright improve our ability to focus on other tasks?

Update: Here is a picture of Neurosky’s prototype and here is NeuroSky’s homepage.<.p>

Raising the Birthday Bar?

I suspect we all think pretty much the same way when we put together a birthday party for one of our kids. As Brittany’s Mom says:

… “To each their own. It’s about her. It’s about me making this the best for her.”

If that were all there was to this story there would be no more discussion. However,

she continues, “Brittany’s my baby, my princess. If I could do it even bigger, I would. She’s so good (Brittany brought home straight A’s on her first report of the school year). If she was a snot, a little brat, I wouldn’t do this.”

What’s the scale of this party? The closing present will give you an idea:

How do you top an appearance by Bubba Sparxxx? You pull out the big guns, this time in the form of a little luxury sports car. Brittany’s surprise gift: a 2006 BMW Z4.
“The reason we are having all of this is because of the car,” Leslie says. “She had her heart set on a BMW Z4 in this certain shade of blue. Grayson (car dealership) searched all over and found one in Oregon. I didn’t want to have to wait a year to give it to her.”

Brittany can’t bring herself to get out of the car that retails for about $45,000.

15 year old Brittany said later:

“It would’ve been fine if I had a few friends to go the movies,”…

Yes, indeed.

Via this guy who was apparently most interested in the lap dance (see Grand Entrance segment of the video).

What Keeps Kids Off Playgrounds

A recently published study argues that for at least 25% of overweight kids bullying keeps them off their school playgrounds:

Overweight kids can be bullied or taunted right off the playgrounds or ball fields, potentially making their struggles with excess pounds even worse, researchers here said.
One quarter of overweight children ages eight to 18 reported significant problems with bullying, and such problems correlated strongly with self-reported depression, loneliness, anxiety, and curtailed physical activity…

First, let’s all agree that bullying is bad behaviour and should not be condoned. Second, I’ll go so far as to say that bullies, any one who threatens to or actually initiates physical violence against another student, should be removed from the school and face appropriate criminal charges.
Now, what really keeps kids off playgrounds and also forces them into an environment where they have to deal with bullies on the playground? Well, our school systems. That right.
The school system herds large numbers of students together into large buildings for a significant part of there day. During that day these young, energetic people spend most of their time crammed into small rooms, sitting in rows of chairs, sometimes behind desks. Five-six hours a day like this and we wonder why many don’t get enough exercise. Then during the day elementary* school kids may be released with 100’s of their schoolmates into a large caged yard, one that is not unlike a prison yard. Hmmmm, energy, 100s of kids, some of whom are jerks and bullies, in a large caged area. Just what kind of behavior do you expect?
Yes, damn the bullies. But also damn the institutions that force all these people into this overcrowded environment. Unless, that is, you really want to train our children for a life in prison or sweatshops.

*Note that by junior high and high school recess is a thing of the past and the bullies do most of their preying in the hallways, at lunch time or after school.