Researchers modify VR headset to measure brain activity

Researchers modify VR headset to measure brain activity
A research team at the University of Texas, Austin, created an EEG sensor that integrates into a commercial VR headset to measure brain activity during immersive VR interactions.

The noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor was installed in a Meta VR headset which can be worn comfortably for long periods of time.

The researchers envision a number of application for this development, from measuring attention and mental stress of aviators using flight simulators, to helping people with anxiety as well as viewing through the eyes of a robot.

The EEG sensor measures the brain’s electrical activity during immersive VR interactions, with this development designed to be more comfortable for the user than conventional VR/EEG sensors already on the market. The researchers believe that this new sensor will extend the potential wearing time and open up additional applications.

A spongy electrode made of soft, conductive materials was developed by the team, featuring electrodes across the top of the headset and n EEG recording device attached to the back of the headset.

The breakthrough will form part of a major research project at UT Austin, forming part of a new robot delivery network that will serve as the largest study to date on human-robot interactions. VR headsets will be used by people either traveling with robots or in a remote observatory where users will watch along from the robot’s perspective, detecting and measuring the mental load of this observation over long periods of time.

To test the viability of the VR EEG headset, the researchers developed a driving simulation game that has the user press a button to react to turn commands. The EEG measures the brain activity of the users s the make driving decisions in real time, showing how closely subjects are paying attention.

Nanshu Lu, professor and research lead on the project, University of Texas, commented: “Virtual reality is so much more immersive than just doing something on a big screen.

“It gives the user a more realistic experience, and our technology enables us to get better measurements of how the brain is reacting to that environment.”

The research team have filed preliminary patent paperwork for the EEG sensor and are open to partnering with VR companies to create a built-in version of the technology.

Pictured: Hongbian Li, a research associate in Nanshu Lu's lab, wearing a Meta VR headset equipped with a noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor. - University of Texas, Austin

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