There are a lot of different ways that have been tried to make the process of controlling things in a VR environment more natural. We have motion controllers, haptic gloves and even full-body motion-capturing suits.
What if you needed none of that stuff to influence the VR world? That’s what a company called Neurable is trying to do with their brain-computer interface technology.
We’ve Been Here Before
The idea of controlling a computer system with your brain is probably one that you’ve heard before. After all, we now have prosthetic limbs that are operated directly through a brain interface and there have been games and programs using sensors on the surface of the scalp.
The best and most accurate examples of brain-computer interfaces are invasive, using electrodes or a chip implanted on the surface of the brain to work. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to have brain surgery to play Fruit Ninja in VR.
Luckily Neurable’s solution doesn’t need you to go under the knife and comes in the form of a head-mounted sensor system designed specifically to work with an HMD strapped on.
More Than VR
Obviously VR is only one application of this technology. As with other BCIs, the main idea is to help people with mobility problems such as paralysed individuals or amputees. That is indeed what Neurable had in mind with this system it seems, but since the VR market is growing so quickly, it makes sense to find a mass-market use case for the technology.
On the Surface
The Neurable controller uses non-invasive brain scanning technology, essentially EEG technology, along with sophisticated algorithms to process them and extract useful control information from them.
Past systems that use the same approach were pretty crude and this was mainly down to a lack of processing power, sensor sensitivity and a more limited understanding of brainwave patterns.
The Special Sauce
What Neurable has done is tackle this problem on multiple fronts. They use real-time machine learning to analyse brain patterns as the user interacts with a computer system (such as VR and AR) and requires little or no “training” according to the company.
What it means for you and me is that you only have to stick the thing on your head for your brain signals to be turned into something a VR program can use. Right now, it’s not super accurate, but in the video game demo the company shows off a simulation that lets you experience what it would be like to use telekinesis. The player manipulated virtual objects by thinking them into motion.
Of course, there’s no reason why this technology has to be limited to a virtual manipulation, maybe one day something like the Neurable device will be how we operate everything from our cars to our air-conditioners.