2006-03-15

BAW - Day 3

On the first day of Brain Awareness Week I introduced different concepts of neurosongs. The ones I'm posting merely have brain-related titles/artist names (today's, klao DNA - Synaptic Frequency, is made by a robot. It's from Traditional Robot Music, which is, along with Vol. 2, free for download). But another possibile definition included sound used as a weapon. I said I wasn't going to write about that.

Then I read Positive Technology Journal on this article in Top Tech News about controlling movement and balance with sound and electrodes.

The technique, called galvanic vestibular stimulation, sends sound through a headset which affects the inner ear and electricity to the brain through electrodes attached to the head. It controls balance; as they play a VR video car racing game, players feel as though they are moving through the course. But more, movement of the body can be triggered – subjects move against their will.

The best commercial promise for GVS still appears to be its use for enhancing video games. Next-generation gaming consoles such as the Xbox 360 and ever-evolving PC graphics cards are setting the bar for visual realism higher and higher. If developers can someday enhance stunning visuals with equally stunning sensations, ultrarealistic games that take advantage of GVS might shake up the industry.

But even the use of GVS in gaming raises an interesting ethical dilemma, McLean said. Could the technology, she asked, enhance gamers' experience of violence to the degree that it blurs or even completely evaporates the line between fantasy and reality? If that's the case, McLean added, GVS could be seen as a tool that ultimately promotes violent behavior.

It also could be a tool that provides a virtual experience unlike any other. If GVS delivers on its game-enhancement potential, developers and marketers might hold the remote in their hands, easily holding a captive audience of enthralled gamers in their sway.


The researchers stress that GVS should be used in a medical setting because of the danger in "zapping" if not performed by a trained professional, but one of their tests was a game and the application is obvious. Others include controlling movements of prisoners.

The truth is that GVS in its current stage is far from the control freak's ultimate weapon. Boston University's Collins dismissed the possibility of using the technology to move humans completely against their will because, he said, "Our central nervous system, through volitional commands, could largely override the effects produced by GVS."


Perhaps it's not ready now, but we should be prepared for it or similar systems and consider how to use them. The future may not lie with restraining prisoners, it could be Nintendo game violence come to life.

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Enter the neuroword contest!

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