Well, the simplest exercise doesn’t require that. Let’s press the Practice button.
The NIA offers a simple practical exercise: a game that had appeared electronically long before the arrival of the PC. It is ping-pong. The screen displays two rackets and a ball bouncing between them. The computer controls the right racket, and you must move the left racket using the NIA.
Of all of the NIA’s capabilities this game makes use of only one vertical joystick that is controlled by the signals of the mimic muscles. That’s just what you need for a first training. If the above-described calibration has been successful, the racket is at the bottom of the screen when your muscles are relaxed. As soon as you wrinkle your forehead, the racket will jump up.
The exercise seems to be pointless at first. You try to wrinkle your forehead at such a moment that the racket got under the ball while flying from the bottom to the top of the screen. You seldom succeed.
Then you manage to wrinkle your forehead with as much force as is necessary for the racket to hang somewhere in the middle of the screen. You lose control from time to time, letting the racket fall down or jump up. You do this most frequently when the ball is just about to hit the racket.
Then you train yourself to move each eyebrow independently for the necessary angle to shift the racket vertically more or less well. And you hit the ball with an 80-percent precision. The main thing is not to think that this is the most you can get from the NIA and not throw it away.
It is hard to spot the moment of getting to the next level. It happens somewhere in your unconscious, which is a real shock. At some moment your brain transitions from the commands “Lift the eyebrow” and “Lower the eyebrow” to the command “Move the racket there.” You don’t think about what muscles of your finger to relax and strain in order to scroll this article with your mouse, do you? You just think “I have to move the wheel” and the brain does the job automatically.
It’s the same thing with the NIA. You just think about moving the racket up and the racket moves up! The people around you see that you have strained your forehead muscles a little, but you don’t perceive this as the straining of some muscles. You perceive this as the movement of the racket on the screen.
That’s a fantastic moment indeed. Once this state is achieved, you realize that the NIA is not so far from reading your thoughts. It doesn’t read them, actually. But you do get the feeling that it does! You are not controlling your forehead muscles – you are controlling the racket on the screen, folding your hands on your chest, leaning back in your chair and grinning at the people around. This feeling can’t be described – you have to feel it yourself. The NIA is far different from any automatism you can achieve with a keyboard, mouse or any other advanced input device.
And while you keep on training, you will learn to exert very little effort. A very weak movement of your facial muscles will be enough for a successful command.
The program is pompous but laconic about your first win at ping-pong. Next you can proceed to more sophisticated games. The NIA can translate neural signals into keystrokes and mouse movements in them.
The program has a number of ready-made game profiles and offers the opportunity to create your own profile.
Let’s see how your custom profile can be created. This profile defines what commands the different types of NIA signals (mimics, eye movements, and alpha and beta rhythms of the brain – if you’ve learned to control them) are translated into.
The first type of commands is called Switch Control. These are binary controls that can take the value of 0 or 1. Most profiles have only one event assigned to this control – the press of the left mouse button – but you can assign three events simultaneously if you want. For example, a shot (left mouse button) while jumping (spacebar) over your head (not in all games). You can’t specify the source signal of the control, but the developer says it is the blinking of your eyelids. They say that an ordinary person’s reaction and pressing of a mouse button takes about 250 milliseconds whereas the blinking of the eyes helps reduce this lag to 100-150 milliseconds. In other words, if your mouse-wielding opponent encounters you in an online shooter, he will have time to blink but not to shoot!
The other type of controls is called Joysticks. The NIA supports as many as four of them. You can specify the signal each joystick reacts to: mimic muscles, eye movements or brain rhythms.