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East3 and Hasbro dabble in mind control

Ever wonder what the next big development in video game tech will be? Hasbro Interactive is betting on The Attention Trainer, a PC game system featuring a wireless helmet peripheral designed to let kids control gameplay with their minds....
March 1, 2001

Ever wonder what the next big development in video game tech will be? Hasbro Interactive is betting on The Attention Trainer, a PC game system featuring a wireless helmet peripheral designed to let kids control gameplay with their minds.

Although it sounds like a Gene Roddenberry wet dream, The Attention Trainer, created by Richmond, Virginia-based biofeedback development company East3 Ltd., is actually based on programs NASA’s been using to hone their pilots’ concentration levels for 25 years.

Here’s how it works. Kids ages seven to 14 strap on the ThoughtCaster helmet, inside of which is a series of sensors that measure brainwaves to determine how focused players are on the game. The sensors relay this info wirelessly to special software in the PC CD-ROM game, which adjusts on-screen elements accordingly, providing kids with immediate feedback about their attention levels. For example, in East3′s proprietary race car game, Hot Rod Monster Squad, as the player’s concentration wanes, their car’s steering and braking mechanisms slow down. The idea is that kids will eventually learn what it feels like to be fully mentally focused so they can train themselves to slip into that zone at will.

The downside? The Attention Trainer, currently available at www.attention.com, is a whopping US$899 (going down to US$649 in June). That should get your attention!

East3 initially created The Attention Trainer as a learning tool for kids with Attention Deficit Disorder. However, the tech company is also trying to enhance the system’s mass market appeal by signing licenses for popular kids CD-ROM games.

To that end, East3 recently inked a deal with Hasbro Interactive to bundle at least two of the software player’s titles with The Attention Trainer. Pong, the patriarch of video games, will be included as one of three offerings (along with East3′s Hot Rod Monster Squad and cycling game Breakaway Racer) in the launch package that hits market this month. The second Hasbro bundle-its game still to be determined-is slated to come out in late spring or early summer. Under terms of the deal, East3 will pay royalties to Hasbro for each bundle sold.

Kathryn Gray, East3′s VP of marketing, says the company’s next goal will be to edge into the US$7-billion console gaming business. Aiming to license its Attention Trainer technology to a vid game peripherals company for mass market development, East3 will be hunting for a partner at E3 in May. The company also plans to expand its distribution beyond on-line and telephone orders to include a franchise model whereby sales affiliates will be responsible for marketing and promoting the systems, as well as running training sessions, in their respective regions of operation.

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