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Mind control has been the stuff of science fiction, but new gaming tools are turning the concept into fun science fact.
Sure, there's a scary side to the idea, as cyborg cockroaches and remote-controlled rats demonstrate. Mind games that involve consenting adults, however, are becoming popular enough to rate as the Science Geek Gift of 2014.
One game, known as "Throw Trucks With Your Mind," makes use of NeuroSky's brainwave-sensing MindGames headset. You use biofeedback to develop virtual telekinetic powers: If you focus your attention in just the right way, the video game (priced at $25 to $120, depending on the bundle) responds by levitating a truck or some other big virtual object, and hurling it at your target on the screen.
"This has been the dream of almost every child at least since the first 'Star Wars' movie in 1977 introduced us to Jedi mind tricks," The Los Angeles Times' Chris O'Brien wrote last year.
This year, middle-school science teacher J.D. Trebec cast his vote for the truck toss on NBC News Science Facebook page. "Jedi up! Are you ready for some neurogaming?" he wrote.
If throwing virtual trucks isn't your bag, how about taking control of someone's arm ... for real? Behavioral neuroscientist Jeff Wilson suggests trying Backyard Brains' Human-Human Interface. The HHI uses a DIY electronics kit ($259.99) to send impulses from one person's arm muscles to someone else's arm.
"You move, your partner moves in response — automatically, under your control. The possibilities are endless!" Wilson wrote.
Here are some of the other scientifically geeky, potentially mind-blowing suggestions that came in:
- "Brainy and stylish geeks will love this silk scarf with a pyramidal neuron design based on the work of pioneering neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal." — Artologica's Michele Banks
- "I like the old cheap-and-cheerful standards like radiometers, neodymium magnets (contraindicated for households with very young children) and Periodic Table of the Elements shower curtains." — AlwaysThePractical1
- "My daughter wants an Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset." — Mark and Laurraine Munro Magnuson
- "Real geeks also like monsters, monster movies and monstery books. There's a great new book about the actual science behind some favorite monsters, like the yeti and the Loch Ness monster, called 'Abominable Science!' by Loxton and Prothero." — Laurie Tarr (For more book suggestions, check out our holiday book roundup as well as the follow-up suggestions on Facebook)
- "Not sure about this year, but I foresee Hendo Hoverboards on a future list!" — Cynthia Bingaman
Other suggestions included a Klein Bottle opener, some sort of dream recorder, the remote-control wand featured on "The Big Bang Theory," and a set of ThinkGeek's planetary glasses (including Pluto!). The 10-glass set would have been a slam-dunk choice for Science Geek Gift of the Year if it weren't for the fact that they're out of stock until next year.
Finally, a follow-up on the zombie plants: In last week's call for entries, we noted that many geek gift items aren't exactly what you would call must-haves. "Even though you may not need a zombie plant growing kit, for example, it's just good to know such things exist in the world," we wrote.
Mark Chipkin, the co-owner of TickleMe Plant Company, wrote back with the Top 10 reasons why you really do need a zombie plant growing kit. You can check the comments for the full list, but here we'll just pass along No. 9 and No. 10:
"You can produce your own zombie family of plants from the seeds that it produces. You can give these seeds to others, to spread the Zombie Plantpocalypse. ... and above all, Zombie Plants are guaranteed to keep your lawn, garden and home safe and free from zombies."
A zombie plant that repels zombies? Now that's a Science Geek Gift.