Mattel Mind Flex hands-on

First launched at CES in January, Mind Flex from Mattel is probably one of the crazier toys you will see under the Christmas tree this year. No it’s not about testing your knowledge, or seeing how well you can remember things, but about how well you can concentrate and relax when the pressure is on.

You see Mind Flex is a game that allows you to control a fan, which in turn controls a small blue foam ball without you touching anything.

“Use the Force Luke”.

Yeah, we thought it was bonkers too when we first saw it tucked away in a hall in Las Vegas, but 11 months later and with time to play in the office, we can confirm: it is bonkers.

There are two parts to the rig, a headset that you have to wear to allow you to enhance your thoughts, and the Mind Flex game table. Loading both up with numerous batteries, there is a quick calibration test that you have to go through (it’s nothing too strenuous) and then you’re off playing a number of different games with varying themes, but ultimately the same goal: getting the ball around the course in the shortest time possible and beating your mate's time in the process.

If you’re still puzzled as to what the hell we are talking about then here is the brief science bit: basically Mind Flex uses technology that works just like a simple EEG monitor. That means it is an invasive technique based on recording electroencephalographic signals (brain waves) directly from the human cortex and then translating those signals into controlling a fan.

To do that, that headset isn’t like something call centre workers wear, but a band around your head with a sensor that sits above your left eye and two clips that attach to the lobes of your ears. Yes, you will look like an idiot. 

To get you started the very helpful manual gives you tips and tricks to becoming what basically you will call yourself - a Jedi master. We found either doing sums in our head or wishing the ball would go higher helps your concentration and therefore makes the fan spin faster; relaxing, closing your eyes, thinking happy thoughts, reduces your concentration and therefore makes the fan go slower and therefore the ball lower.

“A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master”.

The reason you want things to go lower or higher is because of the obstacles in your way. In the box there is a range of them, from ones that fire the foam ball from one side of the course to the other, a see-saw, mazes to negotiate, and hoops to rise up through.

Clearly concentration is the problem here. Get flustered that you can’t do a certain bit and the ball reacts, which of course makes you more frustrated, which makes it do the opposite of what you want it to do. And that’s the biggest problem, that half the time you aren’t sure what’s happening and why.

We found concentrating on getting the ball to go up helped as did doubling numbers, but then something in our thought process would change without us realising it and the ball would start to lower again. It’s as if our mind was playing tricks with us.

“These aren't the droids you’re looking for”.

With support for up to four players, at £80 this is one of the more expensive presents you might be buying, but it will let you train your mind to control a small fuzzy ball around a circular course. It’s another skill for the CV surely?

Ultimately, Mind Flex is good fun, but also incredibly frustrating, and for us we found that although we managed to complete a course, after some training (not with Yoda thankfully) we have no real idea how we managed to do it. We’re sure though, that if you are 12 it will make perfect sense.

“The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that's left of their religion”.

It seems this is the Jedi’s new hope of making a comeback.



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