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How to measure your brain activity using an EEG sensor mounted on a VR headset

Aug. 04, 2023.
2 min. read Interactions

New EEG sensor designed for comfort and integration with VR-related research

About the Writer

Amara Angelica

161.39613 MPXR

Amara Angelica is a neuroscience paper author and co-inventor with Ray Kurzweil of a patented wearable EKG device

Hair-compatible sponge EEG sensor on a Meta Quest 2 VR headset (credit: The University of Texas at Austin / Cockrell School of Engineering)

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have installed a noninvasive electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor on a Meta Quest 2 VR headset, allowing for measuring brain electrical activity during immersive VR interactions, or for other purposes.

The sensor could be used by people with anxiety to detect their reactions, for example, or to measure stressors of aviators using a flight simulator, for example.

New comfortable EEG electrode design

The new electrode design overcomes problems with currently available electrodes, which are rigid and comb-shaped, and hair blocks them from connecting with the scalp, creating an uncomfortable experience for the user, according to Hongbian Li, a research associate in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

Hongbian Li, a research associate in professor Nanshu Lu’s lab (credit: The University of Texas at Austin/ Cockrell School of Engineering)

The new design uses spongy electrodes made of soft, conductive materials, arranged across the top strap and forehead pad. An EEG recording device is attached to the back of the headset.

Detecting human-robot interactions

This technology will play a role in another major research project at UT Austin: A new robot delivery network that will also serve as the largest study to date of human-robot interactions. The VR headsets will be used by people either traveling with robots or in a remote “observatory.” They will be able to watch along from the robot’s perspective, and the device will also measure the mental load of this observation for long periods.

“If you can see through the eyes of the robot, it paints a clearer picture of how people are reacting to it and lets operators monitor their safety in case of potential accidents,” said Luis Sentis, a professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics who is co-leading the robot delivery project and a co-author on the VR EEG paper.

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

Citation: Li H, Shin H, Zhang M, Yu A, Huh H, Kwon G, Riveira N, Kim S, Gangopadahyay S, Peng J, Li Z, Rao Y, Sentis L, Millán JdR, Lu N. Hair-compatible sponge electrodes integrated on VR headset for electroencephalography. Soft Sci 2023;3:22. https://dx.doi.org/10.20517/ss.2023.11 (open-access; PDF also available).

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9 Comments

9 thoughts on “How to measure your brain activity using an EEG sensor mounted on a VR headset

  1. SL

    9 mons ago
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  2. I reckon this is a double-edged sword. This can be used to spy on you. With a minor tweak, this can be turned into something snazzy but a super accurate grass. Let’s say you’re watching something in the VR and then you see an advert. Then they can accurately measure the response down to the minute emotional reaction of the user. Do I need to go further: now they can measure the people’s reaction to political candidate’s speech or dressing style. Next time, it’s all codswallop, mate, out goes rationality and in comes manipulation!
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    1. That's 100% true. And even more so when combined with other biodata. (https://magazine.mindplex.ai/the-sensor-fusion-guide-by-ryan-sternlicht/)I wouldn't be surprised to see service designs where users themselves don't get access to their data other than specifically requesting it afterwards, if even then.The VR race is in its very early days though. Open source and requirements for interoperability, less monopolized hardware manufacturing, the existing decentralized infrastructure etc. I think there are much better foundations to build on human-friendly solutions than, say, 10-15 years ago. Of course, it doesn't come as default. We need to fight for it.
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  3. test

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  4. Please let us know if you try this?

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  5. VR is a super controlled environment what comes to matching brain response with external stimuli. I think that would be a great empowering tool for individuals. Having clear and understandable information on how different activities impact one's brain will certainly be an effective driver to steer behavior in a healthy, beneficial direction. On the other hand, creating destructive addictive engagement seems to be precisely what many platforms are aiming for and such EEG data can definitely be used for that purpose as well. Actually it is probably one of the most powerful kinds of information to it. Anyway, great progress 👍
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    1. Mate, don’t forget the government and the powerful corporations. This is the perfect tool for the perfect 1984 world. I know your feelings, I know you. I know you, I own you. I have no issue with the science, sadly the politics is more empirical. They’re watching us like a bunch of nosy parkers.
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      1. Some of these scenarios assume everyone would have to have a VR device with this EEG attachment. How realistic is that ?

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        1. Hi Amara, the answer depends on how good VR technology will be in the near future. I reckon, it will be bloody brilliant. Then how many of us thought, the internet will be accessed by almost anyone and that it becomes a vital thing like it now? Then when they introduced the Google, how many of us thought it will be used by all as it now? Then when they introduced tracking tools, how many of us thought that in just a decade it will be such a powerful private data-collecting tool? See, this now is old hat and we can’t afford not to think ahead. And I will bet my bottom dollar that VR just like its predecessor technologies will attach similar EEG technologies to spy on us. All they need is the one magic line “for a better customer experience”! They have also started collecting iris data now, a company called World Coin aka Open AI, the very same dudes who gave us Chat GPT. I wish you can cover the news and explore the ethical considerations on this one. https://www.reuters.com/technology/verified-human-worldcoin-users-queue-up-iris-scans-2023-07-25/
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