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NOTE: Media Lab Europe closed in January 2005. The pages on this web site are for historical reference only.

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Research group overview

Principal investigator: Gary McDarby

The MindGames group works on a concept which has been termed "Affective Feedback" which asks the question: " it possible to constructively affect the state of the human mind through a combination of sensory immersion, intelligent bio-feedback and multi-modal interface technologies?"


Affective Agent
Gary McDarby, Daragh McDonnell, Philip McDarby, James Condron, Scott Eaton, Rob Burke
A piece of agent technology that monitors your heart rate and makes intelligent decisions about whether you are stressed or not. The agent is kept alive by you remaining calm. Stress literally kills it. Possible applications are for individuals leading high paced lives that need to be reminded to relax and take time out.

Gary McDarby; Ian Robertson (Trinity College Dublin)
Using strong empirical constructs to measure attention and inhibition we design a video an immersive video game and record brain activity using advance signal processing to explore whether attention can be improved via biofeedback and immersive gaming technologies. A collaboration between MindGames and the psychology department in TCD.

Aura Lingua
Ross O'Neill, Paul O'Grady (Hamilton Institute), Barak Pearlmutter (Hamilton Institute), Gary McDarby, Paul Bach y Rita (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
The Aura Lingua brain interface consists of a high density electrode array which is placed on the tongue and controlled by a wireless Bluetooth device. The electrode array will act as an electro-tactile display to which the Bluetooth device will send encoded information. Both the Bluetooth device and electrode array will be contained in housing similar to a dental retainer.

Gary McDarby, Rob Burke
In this project we are developing an interface that actively experiments with an individual to help them sustain or lower their heart rate. As a person learns to control their heart rate the music in the background becomes less distorted. Possible applications are in fitness equipment and gaming.

Brain Child
Daragh McDonnell, Philip McDarby, James Condron, Scott Eaton
An immersive environment where a person is taught various skills controlled via biometric input. The game adjusts to each person to facilitate achieving a particular mental state. The game is modular, each module designed for a different skill. For example relaxation, concentration, focus etc. Possible applications are stress management, virtual hypnosis, new learning regimes etc.

Breathing Space
Daragh McDonnell, James Condron, Phil McDarby, Rob Burke
In this project we built an interface to a computer game that is controlled simply by breathing deeply. The interface involves some EMG electrodes placed over the diaphragm and a microphone near the mouth and as a person breathes deeply (deep diaphragmatic breathes) the lift and direction of a flying creature is controlled. Possible applications are in stress management, hospitals and personal healthcare.

Scott Eaton, Gary McDarby, Rob Burke, Ed Lalor + collaborators (Tomas Ward, NUI Maynooth)
The Cerebus system is comprised of functional blocks that work together to implement a multi-functional brain-computer interface. The system is completely modular and is built around object-oriented design patterns; each functional block, or node, encapsulates specific functionality independent of the function of the other nodes. There are six classes of nodes: host nodes, power nodes, distribution nodes, reference nodes, data nodes and mechanical nodes. These nodes slide onto distribution rails that act first as a mechanical structure for positioning the nodes and second, as a housing for the power and communications bus that links the nodes.

Morgan Brickley
The key to the CipherScore project is that of communication. In the same way that a cipher key unlocks encoded messages, the CipherScore program affords individuals who are seriously compromised by disability a channel of communication they have heretofore never experienced.
Using a combination of motion detection, colour tracking, and in some cases a head-mounted activation switch the users are taken through the entire composition procedure, from composing short sequences of notes in a Tetris fashion, to using body movement to direct the scoring-pens as they move across the score sheet. The process is iterative too, so they can listen to their melodies or to the score and make musical alterations at every level from the underlying melodies, to the large scale effectors such as key modulation, and instrument timbre.

Diffuse Optical Tomography
Gary McDarby, Scott Eaton; Tomas Ward (NUI Maynooth)
A novel Human Computer Interface based on oxygen absorption of high intensity infrared projected through the surface of the brain. A collaboration between MindGames and NUI Maynooth.

Gary McDarby, Daragh McDonnell, Scott Eaton; Conor Heneghan (University College Dublin)
Treating the heart rate signal as a superposition of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity is it possible to use blind separate activities to separate each source and so make stronger statements amount emotional information in the heart rate? A collaboration between MindGames and the DSP lab in University College Dublin.

Mental Leaps
Gary McDarby, Daragh McDonnell, Philip McDarby, James Condron, Scott Eaton, Rob Burke, Ed Lalor
We look at building a game around a well-known construct of attention/inhibition and use a simple gaming strategy (chasing) along with 3D graphics and sound to make the game immersive and engaging. We measure the players brain activity whilst they are playing and ask the question, is it possible to improve somebody's attention as they play a video game? We see if attention increases can be correlated to biofeedback parameters. And finally we incorporate the ultimate Mental Leap in any game - to play it just with your mind. Possible applications in Brain Computer Interface, treatment of attention/concentration and memory training.

Mind Balance
Robert Burke, Morgan Brickley, James Condron, Scott Eaton, Ed Lalor, Phil McDarby, Gary McDarby (Media Lab Europe); Simon Kelly, Ray Smith (University College Dublin)
In Mind Balance, a participant must assist a tightrope-walking behemoth known only as the Mawg, by helping him keep his balance as he totters across a cosmic tightrope. All in a day's work for a typical computer gamer -- but a participant at the helm of Mind Balance has no joystick, no mouse, and not even a camera -- only a brain-computer interface that non-invasively acquires and processes electroencephalogram signals from the surface of their head.

Paint Affects
Gary McDarby, Scott Eaton, Rob Burke
In this project we develop a novel interface that reads various biometric measurements as you paint in a 3D space. The paint particles adopt characteristics synonymous with the biometric state you are in - so in effect you paint with your emotions. Possible applications are in art therapy for autistic children.

Peace Composed
Rob Burke, Phil McDarby
Peace Composed is an experimental demo that employs a galvanic skin response (GSR) algorithm similar to the one used for Relax To Win. A piece of music, consisting of seven distinct layers, plays in the background. The user is initially presented with only one layer, and must relax to drift deeper into the others. As with Relax to Win, stress must be overcome in order to unlock all the layers of music.

Personal Investigator
David Coyle, Mark Matthews, Dr. John Sharry, Dr. Andy Nisbet.
'Personal Investigator' centers on the development of an innovative 3D therapeutic detective game, targeted at engaging adolescents, suffering from depression, in a novel and dynamic way. Specifically, the user will be invited to become a detective or 'personal investigator' in the game and to hunt for clues to solving personal problems in their lives.

Phantom Limb
Gary McDarby, James Condron; Malcolm MacLachlan (Trinity College Dublin); Annraoi DePaor (UCD)
Phantom Limb pain, the sensation of pain from a limb that does not exist, is a traumatic problem experienced by many people after an amputation. These phenomena can manifest themselves over many years. We explore the possibility of using a virtual environment to alleviate phantom limb pain by gradually fading the limb out over time through a simple gaming technology. A collaboration between MindGames, the psychology department in TCD and the rehabilitation lab in University College Dublin.

Relax to Win
Philip McDarby, Daragh McDonnell, Rob Burke
A racing game in which each person controls a dragon that moves quicker as they relax. The race is competitive and stressful however the person most relaxed wins. Possible applications of this research are in the treatment of stress, anxiety disorder and attention deficit disorder.

Still Life
Gary Mc Darby, Scott Eaton, Rob Burke
Still-Life is a game in which a person is rewarded for being 'still'. Outer stillness is measured through being physically still. Inner Stillness is measured through constant or lowered heart rate. The person faces a virtual mirror and as their stillness increases they vanish from the picture leaving behind an energy corresponding to their stillness. This energy can then be used constructively to draw out a beautiful still image. Possible applications are the rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury and stress management.

Virtually Healthy
John Sharry, David Coyle, Mark Mathews, Andy Nesbitt (Trinity College Dublin)
Virtually Healthy aims to create a compelling 3D therapeutic world for adolescents. Existing online, a virtual space will be created that helps adolescents to both understand and work through mental health issues that affect their daily lives. The world will be structured according to the strengths-based psychological model. As the user journeys through the world they will engage with an interactive narrative, encouraging them to search for solutions to their personal problems. The project will engage adolescents by being an intuitive, dramatic 3D world, similar to those in modern computer games. We will take advantage of the normally goal orientated aims of modern computer games, which we will tie in with the goal orientated nature of solution focused therapy. The difference here is that the aims will not be defined within the game, here the environment will help the adolescent to clarify and define personal goals that they can take away and implement in their daily lives. Virtually Healthy has two main focuses: (1) Story Recording Systems (2) Therapeutic Games.