Berkshire Museum unveils 'Mindball' at revamped Hall of Innovation


PITTSFIELD >> Like an image right out of sci-fi, the players shot a ball back and forth around a table, trying to land it in the opponents' goal, using no physical contact.

It's called "Mindball" and it proved the highlight of a day of fun inside the newly reopened Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation at Berkshire Museum.

"We actually had tournaments going on through the course of the day," Lesley A. Beck, museum director of communications, said.

Players wear a head-strap featuring EEG biofeedback sensors which track each alpha and theta brain waves to move the ball. Created by the Canadian company NovelQuest Enterprises, it is the only game of its kind in Massachusetts that will be available to the public.

"It's an interesting magic that's happening," Berkshire Museum Director of Curatorial Affairs and Collections Maria Mingalone said.

What's more, people get to see what's going on in there live, as a projector displays the brainwaves on the adjacent wall.

"It's a fun spectator sport as well," Mingalone said. "People seemed to love it. We had parents challenging their own children all day."

Improvements to the popular innovation hall, the latest of roughly $100,000 that was just completed, will continue annually, thanks to a $500,000 Feigenbaum Foundation grant. The foundation was begun by Donald and Armand Feigenbaum, who ran General Systems Corp. of Pittsfield.

Another highlight of the day proved to be an iPhone application — i-Innovate — intended to enhance visitors' experience of the innovation hall, providing historical information on famous innovators and items contained in the museum's collection.

"Innovation is what moves us forward as a species," Mingalone said. "It's inherent in human nature. We want everyone to feel like they can be an innovator, it's something we're all capable of."

One particularly innovation-minded activity featured in the hall saw players try to make physical prototypes of problem-solving devices, responding to question prompts.

"The Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation experience will continue to be innovative in the way it explores how innovation shapes our lives and the world around us," Berkshire Museum Executive Director Van Shields said in a press statement. "To ensure improvements to the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation took advantage of the opportunity to explore the latest advances in innovation, the Feigenbaum Foundation responded to our request for support to provide for regular upgrades, rather than a one-time overhaul."

The Feigenbaum Foundation offered a commitment to "ensure the Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation at the Museum is on the leading edge of exploring innovation in the Berkshires and beyond. This will require ongoing intellectual, financial, and physical resources to implement and maintain a high level core experience for visitors in the Hall," said Emil J. George, president of the foundation.

The Berkshire Museum, and innovation center, are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday hours are 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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