Published on January 18th, 2021 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Controlling VR with My Mind: NextMind’s Dev Kit Shows Me a Strange New World
Let’s face it. In the future, we won’t be holding controllers to navigate in virtual reality experiences. Our brains will be sending commands and instructions directly to the device. But it’s not the future. This post from Scott Stein at CNet shows how the technology is already available in a development prototype from the company NextMind. Any kind of widespread usage is most likely many years away but it’s amazing to think how technology can read what we, well, think. It not only sounds fascinating but also intimidating and maybe even frightening. Just how much of our thoughts will technology be able to “read” and where will that data be kept? This takes the personal security argument to new levels as now our grey matter is being probed. Be careful what you think!
Photo courtesy Scott Stein/CNET
In my Oculus Quest VR headset, I was in a room surrounded by large-brained aliens. Their heads flashed, white and black. I turned to one, staring at it. Soon enough, its head exploded. I looked at the others, making their heads explode. Then I looked at a flashing portal marker across the room and was gone. I did this without eye tracking. A band on the back of my head was sensing my visual cortex with electrodes.
Before holiday break, I received a large black box with a small package inside. A black disc, with a headband. The disc was covered in small rubber-footed pads. NextMind’s $399 developer kit, announced a year ago at CES 2020, aims at something many companies are striving for: neural inputs. NextMind aims to read a brain’s signals to track attention, control objects and maybe even more.
It’s hard to understand the real potential and possibilities of neural input technology. Also, many of the startups in this space are doing different things. CTRL-Labs, a neurotechnology company acquired by Facebook in 2019, developed an armband that could send hand and finger inputs. Another company, Mudra, is making a wristband for Apple Watch later this year that also senses neural inputs on the wrist.
I wore an early version of the Mudra Band a year ago, and experienced how it could interpret my finger’s movements, and even roughly measure how much pressure I was applying when I squeezed my fingers. Even more weirdly, Mudra’s tech can work when you aren’t moving your fingers at all. The applications could include assisting people who don’t even have hands, like a prosthetic wearable.
NextMind’s ambitions look to follow a similar assistive-tech path, while also aiming for a world where neural devices could possibly help improve accuracy with physical inputs — or combine with a world of other peripherals. Facebook’s AR/VR head, Andrew Bosworth, sees neural input tech emerging at Facebook within three to five years, where it could end up being combined with wearable devices like smart glasses.