Brain Games: Make your own Biofeedback Video Game

Presented at DEF CON 16 (2008), Aug. 9, 2008, noon (50 minutes)

More and more scientific studies are weighing in on video games and their positive benefits. The dated idea of video games being damaging to one's health and a waste of time is slowly being replaced with the idea of video games as high-tech therapy. By incorporating sensors to measure the player's physiological state, game play performance can be affected or altered. Among the various types of biofeedback, heart rate variability is one of the easiest to understand and build hardware for. In this presentation, not only will we guide you through how to construct simple hardware to read your own heart rate and provide you with some open-source code as a starting point for your future favorite biofeedback game designs, we will also use a real-live human volunteer from the audience to demonstrate the technology!


  • Joe Grand / Kingpin - Founder, Grand Idea Studios   as Joe "Kingpin" Grand
    Joe "Kingpin" Grand is an electrical engineer, hardware hacker, and former member of L0pht Heavy Industries. Even with his distrust of The Man, he has become a co-host of an upcoming engineering build show, Prototype This, for Discovery Channel, and has even done some stuff with biofeedback devices on the program. Sometimes he uses his real name, Joe Grand, and invents things for his company, Grand Idea Studio ( He's also the sole proprietor of Kingpin Empire, a hacker-inspired merchandise outfit ( that gives back to the community through charitable donations. He's designed the badge for DEFCON a few times, too.
  • Ne0nRa1n
    Ne0nRa1n a veteran DEFCON speaker on the human brain and all its wonders, stumbled onto the 'computer underground' almost a decade ago and yet she still somehow has never managed to graduated from any secondary institution, still has never held a job of any great importance and still has yet to write a book. After eventually realizing that she would never become what society wanted her to be, she now happily works quietly at home on her projects; some which she shares at DEFCON.