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Darkball – Learning about brain functions that predict the future


Building on the brain’s functions to use information from the past and present to predict the future, Darkball by Che-Wei Wang is an iPhone application and a tool to understand how the nervous system makes such predictions.

This function is key to how animals, from dragonflies to humans, navigate a dynamic and uncertain world. To make predictions, the brain must have an “internal model” of the system it interacts with. A basic form of this function is at play when we move our body. For example, to reach for a cup, the brain must have a model to predict how the hand will respond to various motor commands. Internal models are also thought to play a crucial role when we mentally predict future states of the environment, for example when we track a ball as it moves behind another object. Here, we have designed a simple task to understand how the nervous system makes such predictions. 

In the Darkball app, you have to intercept a ball when it reaches its final position. By changing the speed of the ball, the intervals when it is invisible, and the target position, the team is testing various hypotheses about the algorithms that are used to integrate information about past and present to make predictions about the future.

Darkball was created at the MIT Media LabPlayful Systems Group in collaboration with The Jazayeri Lab at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Project PageChe-Wei Wang | AppStore (Free)

See also Tempra, an iPhone app by Che-Wei Wang to test your internal sense of time.

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