Controlling Virtual and Augmented Reality with Your Mind

Mind control VR
Image: Variety

Neurable, a Boston-based startup has developed a software that makes it possible for users to control virtual and augmented reality with their mind. In other words, it’s a “brain mouse” that connects your intentions to a computational device. When you think right, it goes right; when you think left, it goes left.

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Neurable’s first project is a short video game demo called “Awakening.” It’s a proof of concept for this thought experiment. The video game is played using a VR headset fitted with an internal cap of electrodes that comb through your hair and down to the scalp, reading the electrical activity that is occurring at the top layer of your brain, known as the cerebral cortex.

Patterns of electrical activity start to appear in regular bursts. Neurons firing in wave-like unison are detectable through Electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive method of measuring electrical activity in the brain.

Neurable’s Adam Molnar says they “look for discrete brainwaves that we then leverage for control.”

Picture this: you have three items in front of you. As you focus your attention on a toy block it begins to pulse with light. As it does, your brain subconsciously registers its particular pattern of flashes. And then certain neurons begin to “fire” in response. Neurable’s software processes this noisy EEG data then finds the signal within it and translates it into a game command: That’s the one I want, reports Variety.

Mind control VR
Image: Variety

At the start of the game, a warning is announced over the speaker system: “Wake up. This is not a test.”

You play as a psychokinetically-gifted child and government prisoner. You must escape the room, but you can’t use your hands, you have to use only your thoughts. There are few toys scattered nearby in the room. Hanging from the opposite wall is a mirror which, if smashed, will reveal a hidden keypad and a way out.

Neurable’s mind-reading technology can be better described as a simple brain-reading machine. The VR headset features six bulky electrodes, which detect the wearer’s basic intentions.

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“With enough vision and funding in 20-30 years, when the benefits outweigh the risks, it will be feasible to have sensors surgically implanted inside the brain and body allowing you to ‘telekinetically’ control devices and cars and other machines,” says Dr. Heather Read, a neuroscientist and professor in Psychological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Connecticut.