Put down the controllers! Players navigate this VR game using only their minds

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Why it matters to you

A new frontier in virtual reality is closer than you think. Mind-controlled VR games may be coming to an arcade near you as soon as 2018.

From allowing people to pilot drones using only their mind to medical applications involving the control of smart prostheses, the ability to use brain activity to directly control technology is a field that’s advanced significantly in recent years. At the recent 2017 SIGGRAPH conference, tech company Neurable and VR graphics company Estudiofuture teamed up to show off something new: brain-controlled virtual reality.

In a tech demo, the companies demonstrated how a VR game created by Estudiofuture could be intuitively controlled by swapping out the regular hand controls from an HTC Vive headset for technology developed by Neurable that monitors a user’s brain activity to determine their intent.

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“[In] The Awakening, you are a child held prisoner in a government science laboratory,” Dr. Ramses Alcaide, CEO of Neurable, told Digital Trends. “You discover that experiments have endowed you with telekinetic powers. You must use those powers to escape your cell, defeat the robotic prison guards, and free yourself from the lab. The game allows you to manipulate objects and battle foes with your mind, and is played entirely without handheld controllers.”

Neurable’s technology uses head-mounted electrodes to noninvasively read brain waves. It then employs machine learning to turn these inputs into instructions. There are some things it’s not ideal for — such as allowing users to type or navigate menus. However, when it comes to creating more immersive virtual environments for fields like gaming, it is an extremely promising technology.

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“The demo showed that you can make decisions in VR with the sole use of your brain; you don’t need gamepads or a controller, or even to move your head,” Joaquín Ruipérez, CEO of Estudiofuture, told DT. “You can select and pick up objects, and throw them to a selected target, only by thinking on them. The most amazing thing is that it really works!”

According to Neurable, the next step is a brain-controlled VR arcade game, scheduled for 2018. This will reportedly offer an expanded version of The Awakening. A Stranger Things-esque game, in which we play a character similar to the telekinetic Eleven, using our brain powers to escape a high-tech facility? Yep, we’re on board for that!