WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
It’s almost fated that one day we’ll be able to interface and engage with new virtual reality worlds without the need for cumbersome tech but until that time arrives we’ve got the next best thing – Brain controlled VR.
It was inevitable that one day Virtual Reality (VR) headsets and Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) would merge because surely the best way to explore a new virtual reality world, especially as the performance and the graphics of these worlds advance, isn’t using sticks or hapatic clothing, it’s feeling as though you’re really there – in the moment. But while two way neurobio feedback, that allows us to upload information to our brains, or that can fool us into thinking we’re really present in another virtual world, holodeck style, is still decades away, and personally I wouldn’t be very surprised if Facebook become one of the early leaders in the field by combining their new brain reading tech program with the Occulus Rift, a company called Neurable has teamed up with HTC to take the first step on the long road that lies ahead.
This week the company unveiled a prototype peripheral that adds brain control to VR experiences. The device replaces the regular strap on an HTC Vive and uses specific brain signals, something called “Event-related potentials,” not the EEG patterns you usually see, to trigger actions. In a showcase game, Awakening, individuals can use their minds, or “telekenetic powers” to escape a lab, and they don’t have to hold plastic wands as they battle robots and grab objects.
Games are just the first application though, and Neurable says it’s hoping to bring its experience to VR arcades in 2018. The brain controller should be slicker, too, so the bulky design you see here, which, let’s face it, makes you look like you’re part of a lab experiment, won’t last long and it will eventually be minimised.
However, the company clearly has larger ambitions. It sees brain control as a big step up in VR interfaces. When done well, it both eliminates the learning curve, for example, you just think about what you want to do, and as some of the latest advancements and technologies combine one day it might be fair to say you won’t be able to distinguish the real world from the virtual one, and that guys, well that’s going to likely open up a whole new debate about the psychological consequences of what happens when the virtual becomes someones new reality.