Ever wanted to control something with just your mind? Ever wanted to actually put those brain waves to good use? Us too. We wanted to create something that took the principles of game theory and motivation and applied them to a novel biofeedback environment. Inspired by the iconic and addicting gameplay of Plants vs. Zombies, Space Invaders, and Everwing, our game is more than just a game. It's an exploration into what we can do at the physical interface between technology and our minds.
What it does
Focus Pocus is a simple game that takes output from the Neurosky Mindwave, a (frustratingly buggy) EEG headset that can determine attention and relaxation values, among other data. It uses that information to adapt gameplay and force the user to push their concentration and relaxation levels up to defeat bigger and badder enemies. Simple controls (up, down, and space) make the focus entirely directed toward Mindwave manipulation. The game can be used in multiple settings from home liesure to research in motivation, learning, attention, and flow.
How we built it
This was actually our fourth idea (started around 4 AM), and the result of members from multiple groups that were disbanded in frustration over the faultiness of the Mindwave. In the true spirit of hackathon hacking, we designed, prototyped, and produced art in Piskel and Photoshop, learned to use the Neurosky Unity dev kit, and scripted the game in C#
Challenges we ran into
Everything. Our initial plans involved creating emotionally responsive mechanical wings, but the materials provided were insufficient int terms of power, so we had to return to the drawing board several times. Out of all the Neuroskys available, only one-ish was working, and even that seemed questionable. One of our design goals was to figure out how to circumvent the questionable data obtained from the Mindwave in a way that would allow the Mindwave to be significant in gameplay, but not frustratingly difficult to deal with. It was difficult to figure out how to interpret and parse data from the Mindwave and integrate that into Unity.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are very proud of making the most of an unfortunate/potentially disastrous situation. Many of the groups gave up, but we came up with a new hack that worked with the hardware that we all were unfamiliar with and with the limitations to produce something that was still rad.
What we learned
Test your hardware and communicate with others with the similar problems. Collaboration not only between individuals but also between groups is important. Even though there are prizes, hackathon culture is not about winning and competing, but about learning and making awesome stuff with a bunch of strangers. Collaboration between people of different skills and disciplines is crucial to success, and it is never impossible to make new friends and connections.
What's next for Focus Pocus
Adding statistical feedback, more levels, and cleaner UI/UX design would further augment the playability of the game, and enhance how the game can be used not only as entertainment but also for research and lifestyle management. Because of our decision to develop in Unity, we have a valuable opportunity to expand to multiple platforms and reach a wider audience. Making the game customizable, i.e., having more adjustable settings, would be valuable in terms of accessibility and outreach. In the future, we would love to expand our usage of EEG and use a Muse Headband, which returns more detailed information and allows the user to control more through just head gestures.