Researchers monitor brain activity in ‘virtual reality’

virtual reality

AUSTIN:  In a recent publication of Soft Science, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have attempted to monitor brain activity during immersive “virtual reality” experiences (VR) by integrating a noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor into a commercial VR headset.

According to Science Daily, the research team led by Nanshu Lu, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, integrated the soft and comfortable EEG sensor into the Meta VR headset.

Prof Lu said that the innovation not only improved the accuracy of brain activity measurements but also extended the potential wearing time of the device, opening up numerous applications.

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Prof Lu, while talking to the media said: “Conventional EEG devices, usually cap-based with rigid electrodes, face challenges when combined with VR headsets due to discomfort caused by hair obstruction. To overcome these limitations, the researchers designed spongy electrodes made of soft, conductive materials. These electrodes are strategically placed across the top strap and forehead pad of the modified VR headset, enhancing user comfort and data collection,”

Meanwhile, the application of the technology extended beyond entertainment and gaming. The research team envisioned various real-world uses, from assisting individuals with anxiety disorders to measuring the attention and mental stress of pilots using flight simulators, the media reports said.

The reports said that the VR EEG headset will be integrated into a large-scale study on human-robot interactions, supporting a robot delivery network project at UT Austin.

As per the reports, the researchers collaborated with an expert in brain-machine interfaces José del R. Millán to develop a driving simulation game for testing the VR EEG headset. During the simulation, the EEG measured brain activity as users responded to turn commands, providing insights into their level of attentiveness.

Science Daily reported that the team has already filed preliminary patent paperwork for the EEG technology and expressed openness to partnering with virtual reality companies to incorporate the innovation directly into VR headsets. The team representative said the successful integration of VR and EEG sensors opened up new possibilities for understanding human behavior and reactions in immersive environments.

Other members of the research team included Hyonyoung Shin, Minsu Zhang, Nicholas Riveira and Susmita Gangopadahyay of the Chandra Family Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Andrew Yu, Heeyong Huh, Zhengjie Li, and Yifan Rao from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; Sangjun Kim from the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, Jessie Peng of the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Gubeum Kwon of Artue Associates Inc. in South Korea.

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