Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday June 10th, 2008. Today I am going to talk about something that might end up being the first step towards a future of virtual reality.
The original story can be seen here. A team of researchers at Keio University has developed a system that allows a person to move an avatar around in an online game called second life without using any external source of control. The system uses electrodes placed on a person's forehead that can read brain waves to control the avatar. The basic process can be seen below.
The meaning of the Japanese in the picture is thus:
1) Detect brain waves,
2) Comparison to brainwave patterns that were already recorded.
3) Movement on screen.
The original purpose for this research was to help people that can not move their arms or legs because of spinal cord injuries or severe nerve diseases. These people can put on the electrodes and movie their avatar in any direction they want and even to a specific place in the world of Second Life. They can than use a microphone to talk with other people in that virtual area.
In this system, if a person wants to move forward all they have to do is think about walking forward. That thought pattern is picked up by the electrodes that are worn about the forehead and fed into a computer. Before the system can be used to move around in a virtual world, a the brainwave patterns for thoughts like "I am walking forward" or "I am turning to my left" have to be recorded and saved on the computer. When a person uses the system his brainwave patterns are constantly compared to the ones that are already saved in the computer. This leads to movement in the virtual world. The user does not have to practice to move around his avatar so it is quick and efficient.
The efficiency of this system would not be as good as the same system in which the electrodes are implanted, as can be done in America. But, in order to use external electrodes, the project leaders made a good analytical program and positioned the electrodes in inventive ways.
I wonder where this technology will go. I can see it going far. I don't know what the reaction time is, but if it is high enough maybe this could lead to driving without a wheel. It may even be able to allow for moving around in a fully immersible form of virtual reality in the distant future. I am happy they are using it to help people that can not move their arms or legs, but I hope they look into taking this technology into different areas.
Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 脳波(のうは). It is pronounced nouha and means brainwaves. About this time my brainwaves are starting to dip into the alpha.
That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.