Yes, lots of us have made cat ears move with our minds, or raised a ball in a tube by concentrating, or played with some other kind of EEG-activated toy. Reading general states of focus with electrodes, then correlating it to some kind of activity, is an old trick — and one that’s often oversold. But sometimes, there’s a great fusion of form and function. Because Star Wars is a weirdly perfect fit for mind-controlled toys, and it always will be.
Last year’s Tribeca Film Festival interactive show gave us a BB-8 droid you could move with your mind. And right now, CES is playing host to the Force Trainer 2, a toy from company Uncle Milton. This has been around for a while, but it’s the first time I was able to try it. The Force Trainer 2 uses your iOS or Android tablet to project a hologram-like image in a glass pyramid, while players wear an EEG headset and concentrate to “use the Force.” If you firmly concentrate on pretty much any idea, you can push tiny holographic droids back in a battle, lift Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp, and fight Kylo Ren for control of a lightsaber in a scene from The Force Awakens. It’s all extremely kitschy, but to a level that becomes charming rather than cheap.
EEG headsets can be finicky, so while my demo worked fine, I can’t say whether or not it’s a great toy to buy. As an idea, though, it’s a pretty great use of a weird tech gimmick. The biggest problem is that it’s actually pretty tough to figure out the kind of concentration that works best. My personal tip: mentally reciting song lyrics.