So, I got my Mindflexyesterday...woot!
Basic premise: Advanced imbedded controlled EEG devices have evolved beyond the messy and bulky biofeedback machines of yore. Integrated into toy to allow mental control over a PWM-driven fan (pulse-width modulation e.g. variable speed). Focused beta waves = more power, higher levitation (via the Bernoulli principle), relaxed alpha waves makes the fan slow down.
It's got a steep learning curve if I ever saw one, but it's addicting once you start trying to beat your times. I had fun for at least an hour and a half last night, and even then, only put it down cause I had real work to do.
However, some recent videos on youtube did an experiment with putting the headset on a sponge, or a manequin with a wet towel. The ball continued to exhibit its generally erratic behavior. Could this be a case of pseudocausal association and magical thinking, tricking kids into thinking that they have control over what is really just a random number generator that does its own thing? I had to set out and test it.
So I put a wet paper towel on the big one-gallon plastic tub of prezels I had lying around, strapped the headset on, and booted up. It fluctuated wildly for a while. Oh no! However, I realized the window was open. This could cause fluctuation in the voltage due to evaporation. So I closed the window and set the tub on the floor. After some erratic floating and constantly being scolded to "Please Check Headset" in a pleasant, but slightly nagging British female voice, it settled to about 50% power and stayed there. It didn't change for about a minute.
RNG driven? Debunked!
So then I wanted to see if it did actually respond to something physiological. I put the headset on myself and had at it. Just sort of putzing around, it flew around wildly like usual. Then, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and started meditating lightly. Almost instantly, it dropped in power, then shut off the fan totally. I held this state for about a minute, and it didn't power on once. However, as soon as I started thinking about writing to state that I've debunked the debunkery, it started going again. Ah, right, thoughts! I kept it on and was typing my discovery to my friends on IM, and sure enough it stayed around 60-70% power when I was focused on typing. Just to make sure, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Sure enough, it powered down. My thoughts started to wander a bit more and it started to buzzle and float. It would definitely be a really useful meditation aid. I also wondered if it responded to muscle activity. So keeping a quiet mind, I made all sorts of faces, jogged my eyebrows, twitched my nose, contorted in all sorts of silly ways. Nothing. Didn't even kick on. Thought to myself, "This is super cool!" Whiiirrrrrrrr......
So yeah. Does the Mindflex, an $80 toy, really respond to physiological changes in a meaningful manner? Yes! It will take some time to discern whether it may be galvanic skin response or true EEG, though my suspicion, based on it having 3 electrodes instead of 2 for GSR, makes me think it is in fact primitive EEG.