August 7, 2023
Researchers have created a new VR headset to measure brain activity during immersive experiences.
The team, from the University of Texas in Austin, modified a Meta VR headset to measure the brain’s electrical activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor, examining how a user reacts to stimuli during a VR interaction.
According to the team, the new design has several potential applications including training aviators during flight simulations, seeing a robot’s perspective of a project and helping people with anxiety.
"Virtual reality is so much more immersive than just doing something on a big screen," said Nanshu Lu, research lead. "It gives the user a more realistic experience, and our technology enables us to get better measurements of how the brain is reacting to that environment."
While headsets with EEG sensors already exist commercially, the Austin team said their design is more comfortable than other iterations. Typically, these feature rigid electrodes, while the university’s design uses spongy material that sits more comfortably on the wearer’s scalp.
"All of the mainstream options have significant flaws that we tried to overcome with our system," said Hongbian Li, a research associate in Lu's lab.
Credit: University of Texas
In tests, the researchers created a driving simulation where a user responds to commands by pressing a button, as the EEG measure how closely wearers were paying attention to the commands.
Next steps for the headset include its use as part of a robot-human interaction study at the university, allowing the team to view the project through the robot’s perspective while measuring the mental strain of the observation on the team members.
"If you can see through the eyes of the robot, it paints a clearer picture of how people are reacting to it and lets operators monitor their safety in case of potential accidents," said Luis Sentis, co-author of the VR EEG paper.
Preliminary patent paperwork has been filed for the EEG, and the team is looking to collaborate with VR companies to make the technology an integrated part of designs.
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