Computer with a conscience

A small California company is offering the first computer to be operated by human thought. We're not kidding.

CNET News staff
2 min read
Think that Ingrid Bergman should have stayed with Bogart at the end of Casablanca? Why not make it happen as you watch? Never say never.

A small California company today released MindDrive, the first computer to be operated by human thought. The Other 90 Percent Technologies--named for Einstein's theory that humans use only about 10 percent of their brains--says its computer will allow people to control the outcome of movies and play simple games using the power of their thoughts.

If you have doubts, you will be comforted to know that the product was dreamt up and produced by Ron Gordon, of Atari fame, who is president of The Other 90 Percent. According to company literature, Gordon discovered the technology, which was originally developed in Siberia by former U.S. government scientists working on mind-control projects.

The device, which will be applied to games and movies, relies on a sensor that is placed a user's finger and hooked into a PC. MindDrive then uses proprietary filtering technology to decipher signals given off by human skin. Unlike, other efforts to create mind-driven games, the device uses techniques similar to a lie-detector test to determine a person's thought process. The bio-feedback, as it is called, translates the person's thoughts into simple computer commands such as "up" or "down" and "yes" and "no."

"The finger sensor measures skin surface electrical charges from nervous system and that in turn it parallels with your cognitive thought. Your thoughts are actually digitized and sent to the computer, " said Jennifer Walker, an account executive with Access Communications, a San Francisco public relations firm that represents The Other 90 Percent, which is based in San Rafael, California.

The games are not as complex as hard-core players are used to, Walker says. It is the innovative technology that is being showcased.

Titles include games such as MindSkier, where users take to the slopes, cut between gates, and dodge obstacles in a race for the best time, and MindFlight, where users fly through the air in an attempt to kill aliens and save planet earth.

MindDrive will retail for about $149.95 with the ten initial applications ranging in price from $24.95 to $39.95 at computer stores across the country.

But the real excitement will likely be for film. With Miramax, the company behind such films as Pulp Fiction, The Piano, and Il Postino, as its partner, the technology will be used to develop short films where the plot and outcome of the movie are controlled by the viewer. Miramax plans to eventually extend the technology to full-length feature films.

So don't give up. Bergman might stay with Bogart yet. It's up to you.