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Brain-controlled games boarding planes soon?

Toronto-based Interaxon is working on a thought-controlled in-flight entertainment system that lets you keep your hands (and gadget stands) tucked away.

Ever found yourself struggling to stabilize that mobile device for optimum in-flight entertainment? Toronto-based Interaxon says it may have an alternative in the form of thought-controlled in-flight games that let you keep your hands (and gadget stands) tucked away.

Yes, soon enough, you may be playing the likes of Mario Kart on your way from coast to coast--with brain power alone.

A visitor to the On the Wings of Innovation conference tests out Interaxon's in-flight entertainment system.
A visitor to the On the Wings of Innovation conference tests out Interaxon's in-flight entertainment system. Flickr: Todd Gillis/Ontario Aerospace Council

Interaxon's system measures brain waves through electroencephalography (EEG) technology, reacting to alpha waves associated with relaxation and beta waves linked to concentration. As users relax or focus their thoughts, the interface translates their brains' electrical activity into a control signal the computer can understand.

Earlier this year, visitors to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver got to test a similar Interaxon system for controlling displays at one of three light shows. At Niagara Falls, for example, they had 15 seconds to harness their brain waves to choose the color for each of seven lights illuminating Horseshoe Falls.

The in-flight system involves a headset, a display attached to the seat in front of the passenger, and games specifically designed for use at 35,000 feet. It was shown off last month at On the Wings of Innovation, a global aerospace symposium organized by the Ontario Aerospace Council and the Ontario government.

At the event, executives from companies like Boeing and Bombardier played with brain wave-controlled software including a meditation title that helps travelers relax and a golf game that helps users improve concentration, focus, and even their golf game.

"We think it's time that in-flight entertainment does more than simply distract you," Interaxon CEO Ariel Garten said. "We create in-flight experiences that offer value even after the flight is over."

Interaxon, of course, is just one of many companies thinking up mind-controlled technology. Honda has a robot that can be controlled using brain waves. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Mattel introduced a new Mindflex game that lets people control the height of a floating ball using their gray matter (see CNET's Scott Stein try it out here). And a headset by Emotiv gives users mind control over in-game digital objects, as demonstrated by CNET's Daniel Terdiman.

Interaxon's system differs because it would operate up in the clouds. The company filed a patent application earlier this year, and is currently seeking interested partners. Now we just need to be able to unload unwieldy luggage from the overhead compartment with our thoughts, and we're all set.

Interaxon in-flight system