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Brief Published: 15 Aug 2017

Thought-Controlled VR: Neurable’s Brain-Computer Interface

Neurable's brain-computer interface

Boston-based tech start-up Neurable has created a brain-computer interface that lets people control virtual-reality (VR) experiences just by thinking.

The start-up has created a game called Awakening that uses the technique, revealing it at Siggraph – a conference focused on computer graphics and interactive techniques that took place in Los Angeles from July 30 to August 3.

Neurable's machine-learning platform interprets brain activity in real time thanks to a modified HTC Vive headset with added EEG sensors and eye-tracking technology. This allows players to put on the headset and manipulate the digital world around them without any controllers. For example, using their thoughts alone, players can pick up objects in their field of view and throw them.

Great strides have already been made in augmenting VR experiences, with the development of motion capture, haptics, eye-tracking and natural language processing technologies. Neurable believes that interfaces will continue to evolve to support more complex tasks. "In my opinion, mixed reality cannot become a ubiquitous computing platform like the iPhone, or like the computer, until we have brain-computer interfaces as part of the solution," said chief executive Ramses Alcaide.

The company foresees an ecosystem of control inputs that will combine to make VR or augmented reality (AR) environments more responsive and adaptive to user behaviour. In the long run, it expects that headset manufacturers will integrate brain sensors directly into their products, which will radically empower users in mixed-reality environments.

For more on how VR and AR are redrawing the boundaries of human experience, see Human-Centred Tech Trends: The Tech Expo 2016 and Wearable Technology Show 2017.