At $265m, Grand Theft Auto V was the most expensive video game. While it made $1b in the first three days of going on sale, not all games can duplicate that success. Finding out where they lose players before they go to market would be a game changer for video game developers. Enter Braintelligence.
Farzam Molkara’s obsession with video games began when he was five, playing on his older brother’s Commodore 64 in Iran. He studied software engineering and while at university founded his first company, working on games and training simulators, with an emphasis on serious games.
“The main purpose of these games is not for entertainment. One serious game I’ve been involved with was an emotion recognition rehabilitation game for autistic children, helping children understand and mimic the emotions happening around them,” the entrepreneur explains.
It was here that he was introduced to the field of neuropsychology, affective computing and EEG devices, which record the electrical activity of the brain.
User engagement is the differentiator between a game’s success or failure. But, measuring user experience and emotion is challenging because the way we perceive our emotions is completely different from reality.
“In neuropsychology emotions and feelings are not the same. Emotions are sudden neurochemical reactions of your brain to stimulate, which are not detectable by the self. When these pulses get saturated, they form something which we call feeling, this is how we perceive them,” explains Molkara, adding: “It can really happen but then you have a positive or negative pulse regarding your emotions, while in the big spectrum, you are in a good feeling or a bad feeling.”
Users filling out a questionnaire might therefore unwittingly provide a misleading response. If a company is throwing millions at a game, it wants to be sure it understands where the game is not working.
Molkara realised that consumer-grade EEG caps could be used to detect emotion based on the brain activity of gamers. In 2020, he put together a team and built a prototype under the company name EMO Hack, which successfully completed the Fit 4 Start accelerator programme. Despite landing customers, there were unforeseen challenges and Molkara wound up the company in 2021, the same year his father passed away.
In 2022 he created Braintelligence to continue working on the commercialisation of the solution while redefining the approach. “I learned a good lesson from that failure,” he recalls. Based out of the Talent Hub at the Lycée des Arts et Métiers, a high school which offers game developer training, Braintelligence is collaborating with people at the University of Tokyo as well as in Barcelona and London.
Molkara reckons that AI is a game changer for neuroanalytics, applying neuroscience to brain activity and understanding human cognition.
“Your brain is producing a lot of information and it’s not humanly possible to transform that data to something which is understandable. But using AI that could be possible,” he explains.
Video games as a use case remain the core of Braintelligence’s focus but the entrepreneur is interested to push the benefits of the technology for other sectors including advertising, movies, education, well-being and healthcare.
Currently, Braintelligence is gathering data to build a brain signal database to train an AI that will be capable of translating brainwaves into emotions. He hopes to reach a critical mass of data in the next 12 months in order to develop a Software as a Service solution. Meanwhile, Molkara plans to raise funding to grow the Braintelligence team.