Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mind Power

"Use the Force, Luke."
--Obi-Wan, Star Wars 

"This has been the dream of almost every child at least since the first 'Star Wars' movie in 1977 introduced us to Jedi mind tricks." -- Los Angeles Times
Luke Skywalker using the 'Force'

NeuroSky headset

Star Wars Force Trainer ad







In a recent Los Angeles Times article, a young video game developer, Lat Ware, introduced a device at a game developers conference that works through mind control.  No hand controls or speech.  Pure thought.  The aptly named Throw Trucks With Your Mind uses a special headset that measures brain wave activity of the player.  Their challenge is to stay calm, focused, block distractions and concentrate on a single thought-- picking up and hurling an object.  For some, the process takes several minutes to achieve the zen-like state needed to move objects. Some fail completely.  But Ware is at the forefront of an emerging field called neurogaming. Advocates say the concept in a few years will incorporate a wide array of physiological factors, including a player's heart rate, pupil dilation and emotions. Moreover, they envision many such games being developed to improve the health, brainpower and skills of those playing them.
Then there's NeuroSky, which develops several brain-computer interface technologies.  NeuroSky created "MindFlex",  a game that involves wearing a headset and moving a ball up and down through an obstacle course.   In "Star Wars Force Trainer," the player becomes a Jedi knight in training by manipulating a ball within a clear 10-inch tall training tower. Utilizing dry EEG sensor technology, the headset reads and interprets your brainwaves. The deeper your concentration and mental focus, the greater your ability to move the object.  (Note: some skeptics thought the game was a hoax when it was released in 2009).
Lat Ware with "Throw Trucks" game














User playing "Throw Trucks" game
It seems the once fictional mind control concept in several films over the past few decades may no longer exist in a galaxy far, far away.   If "Throw Trucks" and MindFlex are any indication,  game developers and tech companies may mine the 'what ifs' depicted in other films, like Ender's Game, The Matrix, or Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro,  where elite soldiers pilot huge machines via mind control links in order to battle colossal beasts. 
Ender's Game
Pacific Rim pilots mind linked

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of Apes

What kind of specific training mimics the astounding leaps, gravity-defying climbs, and spring-board jumps of an ape?  Parkour (see images below).   For Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, film makers hired these unique athletes to capture authentic moves mirroring simians.  Sure, CGI was required, but as opposed to its predecessor (Rise of the Planet of the Apes),  they wanted the action to look more real this time around.  With parkour stuntmen donning motion capture suits as a template, "you're never in danger of breaking the laws of physics," said Daniel Barrett, an animation supervisor for the film. “You have a much better shot at credibility.”  Under the tutelage of trainer/gymnast Terry Notary, athletes and actors boned up on their ape moves, while also studying general monkey behavior.  Cast members worked extensively to develop the mindset and physicality of a primate, including riding horses (who at first were freaked out by non-human style gestures and grunts).  And this isn't the first time parkour has been used in a major blockbuster.  For the opening action sequence of Casino Royale,  one of the sports founding developers, Sebastien Foucan, performed death-defying leaps and bounds opposite 007.  Learn more about parkour here.
Cast member in motion control suits (courtesy Empire Magazine)
parkour move