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7 Ways Your Body Is Turning into a Joystick

Dan Tynan

In a few years, people will look back at keyboards and mice the way we look now at rotary phones and fax machines. (“Can you believe people actually had to click a button to make something happen onscreen?”)

7 Ways Your Body Is Turning into a Joystick

(Thinkstock)

Soon enough, you’ll be able to control devices using different body parts, if that would make for a better experience. Some of this technology is already commercially available; the rest may be coming to a body near you over the next couple of years. Here’s a quick head-to-toe tour:

1. Your brain
For decades, pricey headgear that measured brain activity has been used to help people with disabilities and to train athletes; now it’s gone mainstream. From the Muse headband to NeuroSky’s MindWave headset, low-cost wearable EEG monitors can measure your brain waves and respond to them — letting you turn devices on and off, manipulate objects inside games, or control the environment based on your mood. You know what they say: No brain, no game.

RELATED: We’re Close to Getting Mind-Reading Computers

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Necomimi’s $100 Brainwave Cat Ears display your mood by reading your EEG. Yahoo Tech columnist Rob Pegoraro bravely models what happiness looks like. (Yahoo Tech)

2. Your eyes
Eye-tracking technology has already gone mainstream. The Smart Scroll tech built into Samsung’s Galaxy S5 phone determines where you’re looking and scrolls the screen automatically as you look down. At last May’s NeuroGaming conference, Sony demonstrated eye-tracking tech that goes even further. Not only does the tracker in the game Infamous: Second Son follow your gaze, but it also lets you throw fireballs with your eyes. In this case, looks actually can kill.

3. Your ears
Researchers in Japan are working on an “earclip wearable PC” that lets you control devices by winking, raising your eyebrow, or clucking your tongue. This hearing aid on steroids measures the tiny changes inside your ear when you move your facial muscles and then uses them to control your mobile phone. Listen up: The first commercial versions are due out by April 2016. 

4. Your hands
Game devices like the Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect brought gesture control to our living rooms. Now we’re seeing it in devices as small as the Amazon Fire Phone, which responds differently based on how you tilt the handset. Or strap Thalmic Labs’ $149 Myo to your forearm and use the electromyography (EMG) pulses from your muscles to control everything from music players and toys to computers and game consoles.

RELATED:  A Spark of Potential in Amazon’s Fire Phone

5. Your booty
Bob Krasnow, an engineer at game developer Valve, has invented a posture-based game controller you sit on. Lean forward and your onscreen avatar moves faster; lean back and it slows down or retreats. Swivel on the pad to get a panoramic view of your surroundings. Yes, it’s a butt mouse. Krasnow has not announced whether he has any plans to commercialize the device — or come up with a better name for it.

6. Your naughty bits
Yes, really. Meet Skea, the Smart Kegel Exercise Aid that turns a woman’s anatomy into a game controller. (No, we’re not going to explain what Kegels are. That’s what Wikipedia is for.) In Skea’s Temple Run-style game, Alice in Continent, you must chase Rabbit Leg-pullers and avoid Lava Leaks in order to improve pelvic fitness. Just insert the Bluetooth device … you know where to insert the device … and squeeze to make Alice jump.

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Want to know more? View this highly entertaining four-minute video (no, not that kind of video). This Kickstarter project was still seeking backers at press time. We urge you to give early and often.

7. Your feet
Seattle startup Boogio has developed a superthin membrane that fits inside the sole of your shoe and measures your balance and foot pressure in real time. The device could be used to help you navigate inside virtual worlds, track your workouts, improve your running form, detect changes in your health, and much more.

RELATED: Shoes That Tell You Where to Go

At press time, the company was looking to attract developers in the gaming, fitness, and health realms. Talk about thinking on your feet.

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.