- by guest blogger Michele Bowman
Wandering around at the recent Wired magazine's NextFest in NY, I found a new game that provides the perfect paradox to today's adrenaline-charged, physical-performance-driven sports.
It's called Brainball, and at first glance it looks pretty typical - two players sit across from each other at what could be a ping-pong table, with a small ball placed in the center. Their task: move the ball over to your opponent's side and into his/her goal .
Sounds simple enough, but here's where it gets interesting: the players must move the ball telekinetically. That is, with their minds. To do so, each player wears a headband which contains electrodes and is wired to a bio-sensor system. The system registers electrical activity in the brain; specifically, the alpha and theta waves which are produced when one is calm and relaxed.
Thus the beauty of Brainball: the player who is most relaxed will watch the ball roll across the table toward the opponent's goal for a win. Developed by the Interactive Institute in Sweden, Brainball is the antithesis of traditional sports because it rewards a player's ability to relax - an almost obsolete skill in today's world of sensory overload.
Let's speculate that such mind games represent a possible future of sport. As researchers continue to explore the frontiers of neuroscience they are shedding light on the invisible pathways in the brain. Last month the Seattle-based Allen Institute completed the first-ever brain atlas, a 3D map of gene expression in the mouse brain. Because humans and mice share 90% of the same genes, scientists can use the atlas as a reference point as they tackle the more complex task of mapping the human brain.
As they do, one-dimensional sports that focus on physical strength and stamina could give way to games like Brainball that test the mind-body connection by requiring the athletes to use mental agility to control a physical response. Rather than adrenalin and muscle, intuitive reaction and emotional response would provide the winning edge.
Imagine the Brainball World Championships. In the final round, a lone table sits in the center of an arena. Amidst a rising swell of ringing cell phones, ringing pagers and humming blackberries, two opponents square off in a match to ignore it all.
Welcome to the sport of the future, a true test of mind over matter; a game where a winning attitude really is all in your head.