- Editor's Rating
- It works and actually registers brainwaves
- Solidly constructed headset
- Lots of apps, at least for Windows
- Works with Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
- Limited utility
- Headset uncomfortable
- Bluetooth connection process erratic for Windows
- Batteries not included
The BrainWave Starter Kit and MindWave Mobile are undoubtedly cool and great for curious youngsters. Everyone else will likely get a kick out of the tech for a few minutes before moving on.
Imagine being able to control a computer with your mind. Sounds like some far-flung tech promise, like flying cars and virtual reality, right? Maybe not. Maybe the future is now, thanks to its Brainwave Starter Kit.
The kit consists of the MindWave Mobile Bluetooth headset, and a disc containing two “starter applications,” including the SpeedMath numbers game and a basic MindWave training program. The headset is constructed of tough but semi-flexible plastic, and it resembles something you might see on a telemarketer’s head. It’s powered by a single AAA battery (not included), and includes a left-ear clip and metallic tip that rests against the user’s forehead, just above the left eye. It’s not at all comfortable to wear, owing mostly to its rigidity, but it’s fine for 15 minutes at a time, as well as light and well-constructed.
The two trial apps ship on a disc, which does a lot of users no good, given the disappearing nature of optical drives (a thumb drive would have been nice), but the trial apps are readily available as a free download on Neurosky.com. There are many other apps available for purchase also on the site, ranging in price from free to $200(!), though many fall in the $1 to $5 range. There is also a developer kit available for those looking to add to the app catalogue.
The headset pairs over Bluetooth with Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android, with apps for each. Windows by far has the most with a few dozen, and there are only 6 for iOS and 8 for Android, at the time of this review. We tested it on Windows, Android, and iOS, with success, though pairing with Windows took a few tries.
Now, the real question that matters is, does this thing actually work? According to NeuroSky, “your brain produces tiny electrical impulses called brainwaves,” and “the MindWave Mobile detects these waves and wirelessly communicates.”
After exhaustive testing, TechnologyGuide can confidentially claim that the MindWave Mobile does…. well… something.
All the activity and interaction is based on two mind states, concentration and meditation. All the apps TG tested provide some sort of visualization of each, depending on how hard one is concentrating or meditating, whether that be lighting a virtual barrel on fire, or making a virtual object float. It’s not as if one can control a PC with the MindWave Mobile, or make thoughts materialize. All interaction is an either/or proposition based on meditation and concentration.
And it’s not easy! With practice, one could likely concentrate or mediate on command, but maintaining proper levels to make balls float and barrels explode is tough — though when it clicks, it clicks, and the meter registers.
It’s all undoubtedly cool and to the neuro-layman, impressive, even if the control is frustrating and seemingly erratic without practice. There is also definite appeal for a young one interested in neuroscience and brainwaves. Everyone else will likely get a kick out of the MindWave Mobile for a few minutes at a time, but it lacks any serious utility.