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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A single device, a million opportunities.

Some time has passed since Microsoft has announced its new gadget HoloLens, people had the chance to go through their daily lives with all of their visionary information in mind and thus one or another might have experienced some activities or situations where a device like Microsoft’s new gadget could appear desirable.

Microsoft HoloLens - Possibilities

Only one of a million possibilities Microsoft itself has shown in a marketing video

If you did not have had your “HoloLens moment” until now, maybe the article of columnist Jurica Dujmovic for MarketWatch may be an inspiration for you. From an economic point of view he sheds light on Hololens’ possible impact on the consumer market as well as media usage and points out where “the first augmented-reality device done right” could really be an improvement:

“HoloLens will impact multiple markets, ranging from home entertainment to mobile devices; virtually everything with a screen will likely take a cue from the technology within HoloLens. Your fridge will interface with it, showing you a see-through view of groceries, along with a visual representation of the expiration dates, and the option to “check mark” individual items and add them to your shopping list. That is, without opening the fridge.”

via Microsoft’s HoloLens actually could be a game changer

But his list of opportunities and possibilities does not stop at your fridge. He talks about:

  • Changing wall colors at your home
  • Seeing fantasy scenes when looking out of your window
  • Experiencing different real world places when looking out of your window
  • Transforming your child’s bedroom into an enchanted forest instead of a traditional good night story
  • Single- or multiplayer gaming in your living room as an alternative to classical board games
  • Integration of holograms into your car and your view of the outside
  • Surgeons that use it for complex operations (if you have a special interest in medical topics we recommend the article “Drone Surgery and HoloLens: Hello 2015”  by Zev Ginzburg, UX Research Copywriter at Codal Inc.)
  • Improving the tidiness of your office working environment
  • Creating impressive art installations on almost empty walls in almost empty halls
  • Enhancing education by visual breakdown and vivid demonstration of complex subjects

Finally the authors sums it up very accurately:

“Really, HoloLens has the potential to change the way we perceive the world around us, and to truly extend and augment reality. Depending on the final product and the limits of our imagination, we may reach, or even surpass, many elements of the imaginary “Star Trek” holodeck technology.”

via Microsoft’s HoloLens actually could be a game changer

So did you find your favorite HoloLens scenario? Or do you even see more than the author? Or do you disagree and do not see any opportunities for your life in Microsoft’s new technology? We would love to hear your opinion in the comments section.