MaRS client InteraXon is the talk of the town in Vancouver this week—the Toronto company has just revealed the world’s largest thought-controlled computing experience at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Starting tomorrow (Friday), visitors to Ontario House will be treated to Bright Ideas: a chance to control lights on the Parliament Buildings, the CN Tower and Niagara Falls using only their thoughts.

After grabbing a seat in a specially designed pod, donning a headset and spending three minutes learning how to control their brainwaves, users will be able to change the colours and flashing frequency of lights on Ontario’s most recognizable landmarks. Cameras fixed on the landmarks will capture the changes and relay video right back to Vancouver, so users (and observers) can see the effects of their thoughts in real time.

While Bright Ideas will surely be one of the Olympics’ hottest attractions (other than the sports themselves, of course), it will also be a chance to showcase Ontario’s commitment to technological innovation. “Bright Ideas will promote tourism in Ontario,” says Trevor Coleman, InteraXon’s Director of Operations, “but it also illustrates that Ontario is a hotbed of technology right now.”

Ariel Garten, InteraXon’s CEO, agrees: “We’ve found that Ontario is completely committed to fostering innovation. It has the resources and the vision to make  the technologies of tomorrow come to life today—that’s what we’re doing at InteraXon.”

“Thought-controlled computing will be the way we engage with objects in the future,” says Chris Aimone, InteraXon’s CTO. “It will be as normal an interface as a computer mouse or voice-activated dialing.”

It’s the exciting possibilities of thought-controlled computing that have people all over the world talking about Bright Ideas: visiting delegations have already expressed interest in the project and media from all over the world are jumping at the chance to show off InteraXon’s work.  From the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat to online publication BackChina.com to Wired’s Gadget Lab, Ontario’s mind-control makers are front and centre in the technology media this week.

InteraXon at the Premier's Innovation Awards at MaRS
InteraXon at the Premier's Innovation Awards

InteraXon’s big break came after it created a thought-controlled experience for 2009 Ontario Premier’s Innovation Awards, held at MaRS—the brainwave-controlled music and visual performance captured the attention of the entire audience, including Premier Dalton McGuinty, who donned a headset and set about using his mind to control the instruments and images on screen. The Ministry of Research and Innovation was hooked and approached InteraXon with a big idea for Vancouver 2010: Bright Ideas was born.

As a start-up company, InteraXon has worked with MaRS advisors and staff to strategize focused marketing and develop its business plan. “MaRS has been invaluable in bringing this [brainwave-controlled] technology to market,” says Coleman. InteraXon creates all kinds of experiences in thought-controlled computing and is one of the only companies in Canada to do so. From pouring a virtual can of cola to controlling an orchestra of instruments, InteraXon’s experiences are at the forefront of technology, science and art.

“InteraXon represents a new kind of company where technological innovation and social creativity intersect to create new experiences with mass market appeal. The company continues to develop new opportunities and win market recognition 
for its vision and drive to succeed,” says Greg Pelling, MaRS advisor and Senior Vice President of Sierra Systems.

Those of us stuck in Ontario during the Olympics can get in on the action at InteraXon.ca—for all 17 days of the Olympics, InteraXon will simulcast the experience on its website.  And we’ve got a bit of an advantage over the BC-bound users: we can watch the lights change on our landmarks in real life, bundled up in our Ontario-appropriate winter clothing, without the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Games. And we can brag about how a little Ontario company is in charge of the most exciting exhibition at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

You can also watch the BNN SqueezePlay interview with Trevor Coleman, COO, InterAxon: Thought Control Technology Goes to the Olympics.

Vanessa Caldwell

Vanessa is a writer at MaRS. She writes all kinds of things, like posts for the MaRS blog, articles for Convergence (the MaRS magazine) and the weekly MaRS eNewsletters. See more…