LAS VEGAS -- It was as if Charles Xavier himself held court on the CES showroom floor, sending drones flying with just his mind. Except that the X-Man in question was a middle-aged Asian convention attendee wearing a brain-wave-reading headset from NeuroSky.
The 8-year-old San Jose company hopes to turn electrical impulses produced by customers' gray matter into a mainstream consumer brand by pairing its headset with gadgets and games dreamed up by outside developers.
Those include Steve Castellotti, the young chief executive of Puzzlebox, who put his mind-controlled spherical helicopter Orbit on Kickstarter in November hoping to raise $10,000. He pulled in $75,000.
Puzzlebox paired up with NeuroSky, whose headset controls the flying gizmo. The gadget enjoyed gangbusters holiday sales, according to NeuroSky's sales head, David Westendorf.
"More innovation happens outside the office than internally," he said. "With an open development strategy, we embrace the competition and bring it into the fold instead of alienating it."
NeuroSky also showcased Focus Pocus, a $199.95 game designed to help children with concentration problems improve their impulse control, attention span and memory.
As a customizable wizard avatar, younger players try to master 12 tasks -- such as racing broomsticks, brewing potions and other Harry Potter-esque activities -- using different mental states. Their performance is tracked by the NeuroSky headset and reported to parents.
NeuroSky also made waves this summer at the Comic Con geekfest in San Diego, where it displayed its cutesy Necomimi product.
The fuzzy white ears -- also available in Obsidian Black, Jungle Leopard, Minky Brown and Devilish Horns -- are attached to a NeuroSky headset and move in accordance to the wearer's mood. Sharp focus causes the ears to stand straight up, while relaxation leads to them drooping. Being "in the zone," such as the state archers are in when they release the arrow, is denoted by wiggling ears.
A $99.95, China-made Necomimi set, according to Westendorf, is "great for cosplay."