How Brain-Computer Interfaces Can Deliver On VR's Promises - UploadVR
Serious tech observers generally agree our mixed-reality future will be amazing, and we’re not there yet. Beyond technical hurdles like frame rate and positional tracking, mixed reality presents unique challenges for the designers, artists, and storytellers who craft the narratives that give meaning to digital experiences. The challenge facing today’s developers is to recognize that the paradigm for personal technology is shifting. From Rift to Apple Watch to Snap Spectacles, the trend is toward wearable computing. But this poses a tricky problem for MR headsets: how should users interact with a machine that they’re wearing on their faces? An illuminating parallel can be found in the evolution of the PC industry. Computers have been commercially available since 1946, but it took key insights regarding the graphical user interface (GUI) to make computing personal, practical, and intuitive. The point-and-click GUI proved so effective that it remains the dominant computing interface more than thirty years after the 1984 Macintosh. Today’s MR hardware seems a bit like a 1970’s IBM. Corporations see the potential, and hardcore hobbyists are feverishly experimenting, but the core technology remains inaccessible to the everyday user. Mixed reality needs a GUI-like revolution in user interaction. One thought-leader on this subject is neuroscientist and entrepreneur Meron Gribetz, CEO of Meta. Meta is working on an AR headset, which puts them in the same league as Microsoft and Magic Leap. Gribetz often speaks of a “zero-learning curve” computer, a machine that is so intuitive that you’ve always known how to use it. Implicit in such a machine is the conclusion that it must function as an extension of your brain. And therein lies the opportunity for brain-computer interfaces to redefine how humans interact with the world around us. Researchers have been working on this subject for a long time. Brainwaves were first discovered in humans in 1924. In the 1970’s scientists at the University of California popularized the term “brain-computer interface” or BCI, referring to a hardware and software system that uses brainwaves to control devices. While BCIs are already commonly used in medical devices, it is now, with the advent of wearable computing, that their potential could be fully realized. Current Limits Consider the use cases most commonly listed for augmented reality: work and productivity, construction, industrial assembly, transportation, sports, the military and law enforcement – all of these speak to dynamic environments that place heavy demands on user attention. Do current AR devices simplify these environments or complicate them? For example, how will a construction worker operate a “smart helmet” while simultaneously using tools or operating heavy machinery? How will a soldier quickly navigate an AR display while carrying equipment and speaking on a radio? These scenarios reveal the limitations of existing methods for interaction. Gesture controls preclude hands-free operation. Voice commands are awkward in public and fail in noisy environments. While each method has its advantages, their cumulative effect is to create a new language of inputs for the user to master. We should expect that this barrier will dramatically slow the rate of [...]