VR technology has been accelerating rapidly in recent years, but there are still questions surrounding the most effective ways for us to interact with virtual spaces. We have recently seen a variety of weird controllers, boots, chairs and hover boards, while the next step in hand and body tracking technology seems to be not quite there yet. Boston-based startup Neurable has recently jumped to the head of the innovation pack with the launch of the first brain-controlled interface for VR.
Neurable's brain computer interface (BCI) technology identifies brain activity through electroencephalography (EEG) and can translate those brain signals into specific directions within the VR environment. The company is ultimately interested in developing BCI technology that functions across a variety of platforms, but initial demonstrations focus on VR gaming.
Recently, the company demonstrated a functional VR game preview at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles. The VR game demo is experienced through a HTC Vive with an integrated Neurable headband. The game is a completely hands-free interactive experience where players can reportedly move, pick up objects, and fight robots, all with the power of their mind.
In an interview with UploadVR from SIGGRAPH, Neurable's CEO Ramses Alcaide explains how the technology uses two different modes to achieve its surprisingly accurate results.
"Pure EEG mode, which just determines the object you want and brings it to you directly, and we have a mode that is a hybrid BCI mode, and in that mode we can use the eyes as a type of mouse where you can move your eyes near … the object you want to select."
The video above demonstrates the test calibration phase of the system. In this mode the eye-detection feature is not activated, so each object selected by the subject in the video is controlled entirely through the BCI. As each object flashes, the system detects the brain registering those flashes.
VR gaming is the company's obvious early target for further refining and development of the BCI system, and this early iteration of the technology is initially being shipped off to VR arcades and developers. But the sky is the limit for the technology in the future. The company foresees the technology becoming fundamental to future VR and AR platforms and it's not hard to see why. Hands-free VR gaming could be here sooner than we think.
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