The game VR Awakening is controlled by the brain
Announced as the tool of tomorrow, virtual reality has not yet found the solution that will make it accessible to a wide audience. But that could change, with the start-up Neurable, which presents the very first video game in virtual reality controlled only with a direct neural interface and a specially adapted HTC Vive headset.
In the field of new technologies, the creation of adapted interfaces has accompanied the main revolutions, whether it is the graphical user interface and mouse for the computer or the touch screen for smartphones. While virtual and augmented reality headsets such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Gear VR or HoloLens help to popularize these technologies, the control interfaces for moving around in these universes, manipulating objects and performing actions are still in their infancy. Most solutions rely on the use of controllers, gloves or haptic feedback costumes that allow you to feel a virtual object or even experience physical effects such as a punch. Equipment that comes in addition to the already cumbersome helmet and requires an uncomfortable implementation. What if our brains were the ideal interface to navigate through virtual worlds?
That’s the bet that Neurable makes. This young innovative company presented at the Siggraph conference the very first virtual reality video game controlled by brain activity via a direct neural interface. Entitled Awakening, it was co-developed with the Spanish publisher eStudiofuture and is used with an HTC Vive helmet equipped with electrodes. The game is based on the Stranger Things series: a child with telekinetic powers trapped in a laboratory must escape by manipulating objects, deflecting laser shots and fighting robots, all without a controller.
The player triggers an action by focusing his attention on an object. Unlike other EEG systems (electroencephalography), the neural interface does not detect brain waves associated with a state of concentration or relaxation but relies on what is called the evoked potential. This is a more accurate signal that occurs when the brain responds to a stimulation, such as an image or sound.
The core of the technology is the neural interface and the deep learning algorithm that interprets this information. Immersed in the virtual world of Awakening, the player sees animated objects. As soon as he focuses his gaze on one of them and thinks of an action, for example “take”, the interaction is accomplished. To receive this signal, the electrodes must be placed on specific areas.
Neurable has replaced the headband of a Vive helmet with a device that holds seven electrodes, mainly at the back of the skull. The start-up says the device can be adapted for other models such as the Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s HoloLens glasses.
Neurable intends to market Awakening in the next year to video game theatres. It also offers a development kit (SDK) compatible with the Unity game engine so that creators can integrate neural interface control into their titles. Ultimately, the company hopes to make its solution a generalist user interface that is the “brain mouse” of virtual reality.