Moving (virtual) mountains – just with the power of thoughts

There is one thing all virtual or augmented reality devices like Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus Rift or others have in common:
Interaction with the virtual environments or objects requires usage of other peripherals or at least your hands. Fatigue, inconvenience or frustration may be a consequence.
But with the invention of a team of students consisting ofJuan de Joya, Victor Leung and Kelly Peng in the UC Berkeley chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH this could become irrelevant in the future: They have invented a virtual reality system where the virtual world can be controlled just with the power of your thoughts. It works like the following:

The project, called Mindscape VR, utilizes the Oculus Rift and the Muse brain-sensing headset to create an immersive VR environment where users can move objects with their thoughts and interact with their surroundings by simply thinking about doing so.

via ACM SIGGRAPH

To us the combination of virtual reality with electroencephalography (EEG) for interaction sounds really amazing. Even though there is not much detailed information available yet, this technology could have the potential to be the missing part for a convenient long time usage and thus the success of virtual reality devices in a large variety of application areas.

Kid using VR system

Kid using VR system – Photo from Mindscape VR team for/via ACM SIGGRAPH

The authors describe it as “gratifying and empowering experience” and give some pretty cool usage examples:

“In our first iteration of the project, we used one type of brain wave frequency to allow the user to levitate and collect pebbles in a simple fantasy world. While we disabled them at launch, we do have features where the user can call a dragon to appear, change night to day, summon fireflies and shoot fireballs depending on what type of brain frequencies the Muse is picking up.

We found that the simplicity of using one’s thoughts to do things is a pretty gratifying and empowering experience. We had a kid try it out at launch, and as he started levitating the rocks he brought up his hands as if he were a Jedi. How cool is that? It’s these kinds of seamless, easy-to-use experiences that underlie the potential of immersive VR as a medium.”

via Juan de Joya at ACM SIGGRAPH

If you are interested in trying it out for yourself the authors state that the system (first iteration) can be experienced at San Francisco Exploratorium’s Cognitive Technology Exhibit during February.

So what do you think about it? Do you like the idea of not having to actually “do” anything for a virtual reality experience or would you still prefer a traditional input device for a haptic experience? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments section.

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