Introduction: Jedi Force
Yoda is my mentor, he is wise. I do not try to emulate him, at least consciously (see pictures), but someone once compared me to him.
This Lazy Old Geek (L.O.G.) is interested in brain waves but even commercial EEGs (electroencephalogram) are pretty expensive. So I did a lot of web surfing and found the Star Wars Force Trainer 2 (STFT2). It combines EEG with Yoda, what can be better than that.
The STFT2 is sold by Uncle Milton as a toy. I think originally it was about $100US, but currently available from Amazon for a lot less. It actually contains an EEG chip from Neurosky.
I like it, here’s some of my experiences.
Step 1: My STFT2 Experience
I first bought a used STFT2 from Amazon Prime. I assembled the base.
This requires looking at the assembly drawing and snapping together plastic parts. No tools required. Then I put a 1.5v AAA battery in the headset and tried to connect it to an Android tablet with Bluetooth. Well, couldn’t find it. Couldn’t find it with my smartphone. Tried all kinds of things but no go. Well thanks to Amazon Prime, I returned it, got my money back and ordered a new STFT2.
Well being a little wiser, the first thing I did was to see if my tablet could see the headset and connect to it, it could.
So then I assembled this Trainer base.
Step 2: Setup
The directions are a little unclear but yes, you need a tablet maybe 9 or 10” Android or iPad to use the Trainer base. It doesn’t have to be the Samsung Galaxies mentioned in the instructions. Now if you were Yoda-wise you would’ve tried to load the app on your tablet before even buying the STFT2 to make sure it works.
To load the app, on Android, click on Play Store and find “The Force Trainer”, download it and install it.
Next, per instructions, you need to install a 1.5V AAA battery in the headset and turn it on.
TIP: I’m using an AAA rechargeable battery.
TIP: Tablet, turn brightness to maximum, I would.
On Android tablet, go to Settings, Bluetooth, turn it on, add device, select trainer (mine comes up as "Force Trainer II") and pair it, no password is required.
Next you open the Force Trainer II app and tap on “SETUP”.
In hindsight, I see there’s some pretty good instructions on using the headset, pairing, navigation and tablet usage in the app.
Clicking on "Learn More" shows a nice video on what this is all about. (and that explains why it takes a while to load the app.)
This isn’t explained but once you have the Bluetooth paired, the line “PLEASE CHECK PROPER HEADSET AND POWER” will change to “USER”(see picture).
Now click on “USER” and login as a user, you can.
When you click on Start, it guides you how to flip tablet and insert it onto Trainer base.
Once you have it inserted, the tablet screen is projected down onto the trainer windows simulating a hologram(see pictures).
It’s tricky as you need to tap on the upside down tablet screen.
Hologram Yoda will give you some instructions.
Confusing to me, the screen will say Training Remote 1 (?) with a little motorboat sound. It just sits there humming. You need to tap to start.
Now you get to move the training remote up and down with your mind!! Cool stuff, I would’ve really loved this as a kid, but still even now, I think it’s pretty neat.
Well, I advanced thru several stages and Yoda said pretty good, I did.
Step 3: Personal Comments
The base requires assembly. It’s actually pretty easy and the parts all snap together so no tools required. The base is big but light. I think it was well engineered.
I like the Star Wars music and Yoda training (in pretty good Yoda speak).
The hologram effect is interesting but is rather faky. Probably young kids would like it but I would rather have the option of playing it on the tablet screen. It’s tricky for this OLD man to tap and scroll upside down.
It’s a little tricky as there is a blue LED on top which you can’t see if you have the headset on. It’s not really comfortable but was surprisingly easy to connect without having to adjust it.
Force Trainer Program
I like the video and Setup.
Yoda training is nice (for a Yoda fan).
I didn’t realize there are so many levels of training. However, it seems to me that once a kid or adult got through all of the training, they’d get bored with it after a few hours. But there is ‘The Force Awakens” that I don’t know about (probably won’t ever make it that far.)
So if you’re thinking about buying one of these as a toy:
First make sure you have a maybe 9 or 10” Android tablet or iPad with Bluetooth. Make sure you can load the Force Trainer app onto it. If you can, use something like Amazon Prime so you can return it. If you get one, before assembling, make sure you can connect to the headset with Bluetooth.
TIPS: You can (probably) use Lithium AAA rechargeable batteries. I am.
On the plastic windows, make sure you remove film from both sides. On mine, one side was green, the other was clear so it's hard to know it's there.
Turn brightness on tablet all the way up.
The trainer window needs to be at or near eye level. I used the packing box on top of a TV tray.
Step 4: Adult Usage
The EEG chip in the STFT2 is made by Neurosky. They have many products using this chip including, STFT2, Mindflex, MindSet, and the Necomimi with the wiggly ears.
They have many apps for their various products, many are free.
Unfortunately, they don’t tell you which ones work with which product but I found one that worked:
Brain Visualizer(Android). This shows the various EEG standard waves, gamma, beta, alpha, theta, delta, plus some subcategories, plus two proprietary ones called attention and meditation. The interesting graphic on the left is a modulated compilation of the signals.
The video shows it in action, the last portion is with my eyes closed, meditation is high and audio high.
EEG Analyzer: seems to work
I did try several of their PC apps with no success. I had a Bluetooth USB dongle plugged into my Windows 10 PC and was able to pair with the Force Trainer II, but couldn’t get any of the PC programs to work, including Brain Visualizer (PC version).
Step 5: Does It Really Work
There’s many articles discussing whether the STFT2 and other commercial EEGs actually work. Here’s some I found.
In my opinion, the STFT2 does measure brain waves with a caveat. As some of the articles mention, they also respond to muscle movement. When I was doing the “Padawan” training, I think a lot of it was muscle sensing, squinting, grimacing. The hard core fanatics would say this isn’t really mind control. I say, who cares, if it gets the job done. It’s still the brain doing the work.
The articles that talk about muscle movement also say that doesn’t mean they’re not measuring brain waves.
In my quick testing with the Brain Visuallzer, I learned a little trick to increase my meditation level. If I closed my eyes, the meditation level would increase.
So the astute reader would ask how can I tell meditation is increasing if my eyes are closed since I can't see the display. Well, Brain Visualizer also has an audio sound something like bells or chimes that increases with meditation level, I think.
This is similar to what the Muse headband does, while "meditating", there’s background sounds like rain, when not "meditating" it will increasingly sound like thunder. Brain Visualizer is kind of the opposite as volume increases with “meditation level.”
The skeptics will say closing your eyes is muscle not brain. That is true but leaving my eyes closed and holding still, maintains or improves the “meditation level” That suggests it has more to do with brain activity.
Step 6: Hacking
I really like Brain Visualizer and will play around with it. One limitation is that I don’t think it has a way to store information. I’m going to look around to see if I can find other programs that might do that.
Yes, I can do a screenshot video, but that’s a very cumbersome process and creates huge files.
There are a lot of people who have hacked the Star Wars Force Trainer and similar products.
Hacking Neurosky EEG products may have started with this article:
It’s probably one of the best and most thorough.
This one caught my attention and is probably the reason I bought a STFT2.
Here’s some other related ones.
I actually started to do this hack but discovered that for what I’m doing, I might be able to use the standard STFT2 and programs like Brain Visualizer.
The attached is the output of one of the hacks. It might be mine, can't remember.
The advantage of the hack, is that it can communicate with an Arduino and that’s an environment I’m more familiar with and can do things like record to SD card and maybe control things.
Step 7: Conclusion
The Jedi Force is with you.
In my opinion, this toy is a lot closer to what it pretends to be than most people realize. I think the mind can be used to control things. Look at the advancement in prosthetic hands and arms.
One of the things I would like to do with the STFT2 is monitor my sleep. I already own a Fitbit that does that but I’d be interested to see what my Theta and Delta waves are doing:
I see two major problems, one is recording my sleep sessions, two is the uncomfortable head set.
The first might be dealt with a hack.
The second with pulling out the guts of the headset and putting it in something more comfortable like a headband.
Then next stage is maybe playing some soothing music to go to sleep with, turning it off when I’m asleep and gently waking up in the correct brain wave state with lights and music.
Oh, dream on my Padawan self.