Brainball game



Brainball is a two-player game where relaxation is counterbalanced with the desire to win. The little ball on the game's table is telekinetically controlled through the use of each player's brainwaves. Both a calm state and a stressed state have a direct influence on the match. The player who is most passive can watch the ball roll away towards the opponent's goal and a prospective win. Brainball was created in 1999 and is one of Interactive Institute earliest and most successful hybrid objects. It has been exhibited all over the world in as widely different contexts as art and design exhibitions and medical fairs.

Brainball is a game that goes against the conventional competitive concept. Instead of activity and adrenalin, it is passivity and calmness that mark the truly successful Brainball player. Brainball is unique amongst machines since it is not controlled by the player's rational and strategic thoughts and decisions. On the contrary, the participants are dependent on their body's own intuitive reactions to the game machine.

alpha and theta waves

At first glance, Brainball seems similar to a traditional two-player game: two people challenges one another and take their respective positions at each end of a table that is marked with two goals. The rest of the game's equipment is more special. Both players wear a strap around their forehead that contains electrodes and is wired up to a biosensor system. This system, that is used to measure the body's biological signals, is fastened to the forehead and registers the electrical activity in the brain - the so called EEG (electroencephalogram).

The brainwaves that move the ball forward, increasing the chance of victory, are called alpha and theta waves. They are generated in the brain when one is calm and relaxed. A considerably stressed player will therefore lose. Brainball is an exciting and social game but also an interesting tool for learning how to control your mental states.

Brainball was one of the sex pieces in the Interactive Institute's exhibition Touching the Invisible, that was on an international tour 2004-2006.



Brainball reflects our vision of technology and is an idea with many layers. It is a game, a piece of furniture and an idea about the anti-game. But Brainball is also a comment on how we live our lives, a comment on the modern, western lifestyle. Around the year 2000, when Brainball was created, there was an IT boom in Stockholm and companies worked a lot with handling stress-related symptoms.
- Magnus Jonsson, Interactive Institute