Italian police are experimenting with a joystick that is a sobriety test. Dee Dee uses neurological insights gleaned from robotics, as well as a simple laptop driving game, to judge whether or not a driver’s performance is impaired. The origin of the Dee Dee joystick (photo), which tests neuro-psychomoto function, is in bio-robotics. As part of research for the production of a high-performance robot, developer Alberto Rovetta, professor at Politecnico di Milano (Milan Polytechnic), analyzed the relation between the brain and finger movements, which lead to the study of how finger movements reveal mental states.

Currently being tested by the Italian police, Dee Dee tests the reaction time of suspected drinkers. In a video game, suspects drive a car, stop for lights, avoid obstacles, and avoid crashing into walls. The test is administered a first time to acclimate to suspect to the “game”, then run many more times, calculating reaction time, coordination, pressure used, and thumb movement on the joystick.

Dee Dee also detects whether the suspect is under the effects of other drugs: while reaction time slows down when one is drunk, cocaine increases it.

Rovetta says the Dee Dee has an 85% success rate in identifying intoxicated drivers, compared to the 45% rate of current police measures.

DeeDee can also be used to assist in athletic activities and stress maintenance. It will be released to the public next month.

The criticism is that gamers will have an easy time with the sobriety test, while people who don’t play will be at the disadvantage. This could be a good point – am I the only person who had a hard time adjusting to the PS2’s thumb-controlled analog stick when it first came out?

By Mark Alvarez