The game uses electroencephalography, a technology in widespread use in the medical industry.
As a young Jedi knight wears his wireless headset, he uses brain waves to move a ball within a 12-inch-tall tube through 15 levels of training. The technology was prohibitively expensive just a few years ago, but the Force Trainer is expected this fall at a suggested retail price of $129.99.
“Five years ago, if I said we were going to do this, there would have been howls,” Mr. Harris said.
Web-connected toys represent another growing niche, accounting for more than $500 million in sales for the 12 months ending in November, according to NPD. This category includes plush toys connected to a computer via a USB port and dolls that come with a code to unlock an online digital prize.
Kiz, a startup based in Alpharetta, Ga., offers a child entrance to an online world via a USB drive key the company includes with a series of action figures and toy vehicles ($24.99 each).
“Two years ago [when] we started researching this, we saw a huge lack of innovation in the market,” said Chris Moreau, chairman and CEO of Kiz and former chief technology officer for Blockbuster Entertainment.
His company employs four levels of encryption to prevent other people from using a child’s unique USB key. If the key is lost or stolen, it won’t work when it is plugged into another computer.
The key gives children access to a 3-D environment to play educational games and engage in free-flow chat with other players.
Mr. Moreau acknowledged that he is not the first to create a controlled online world, but “with something like this, it is not always best to be the first ones,” he said. “It’s best to learn from others’ mistakes and bring it all together and build a better product.”