How Brain Waves Can Control VR Video Games

Virtual reality is still so new that the best way for us to interact within it is not yet clear. One startup wants you to use your head, literally: it’s tracking brain waves and using the result to control VR video games.

Boston-based startup Neurable is focused on deciphering brain activity to determine a person’s intention, particularly in virtual and augmented reality. The company uses dry electrodes to record brain activity via electroencephalography (EEG); then software analyzes the signal and determines the action that should occur.


You don’t really have to do anything,” says cofounder and CEO Ramses Alcaide, who developed the technology as a graduate student at the University of Michigan. “It’s a subconscious response, which is really cool.”

Neurable, which raised $2 million in venture funding late last year, is still in the early stages: its demo hardware looks like a bunch of electrodes attached to straps that span a user’s head, worn along with an HTC Vive virtual-reality headset. Unlike the headset, Neurable’s contraption is wireless—it sends data to a computer via Bluetooth. The startup expects to offer software tools for game development later this year, and it isn’t planning to build its own hardware; rather, Neurable hopes companies will be making headsets with sensors to support its technology in the next several years.


How To Detect Alzheimer’s Years Before Memory Loss

Chilean neurologists say they’ve found a key to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease early, even before memory loss and other symptoms develop. Researchers at Chile’s Biomedical Neuroscience Institute (BNI) believe they can identify early stages of dementia and other psychiatric diseases in sufferers through observing eye movement patterns and the brain’s electrical activity. The neurologists study patients navigating a virtual location, where they must find “keys” to complete a task. Lead neurologist Enzo Brunetti said the tests were able to detect very early signs of cognitive impairment in patients who apparently presented no symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Eye movement link to Alzheimer's

Eye movements and brain activity may be the key to diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease earlier and more accurately, according to research led by Chilean neurologists.

In this study, what we did was that we applied spatial navigation tasks using a computer, and with the help of a software we examined in detail which were the early functions that became altered in Alzheimer’s disease (patients) and focused on a very specific function, linked to the codification and development of cognitive memory, that helps people move through the physical environment. This is one of the cognitive functions that were altered in patients with Alzheimer’s and we observed that they were altered from very early stages. Therefore we believe this is a biomarker for the disease, which would give us an opportunity to shed light on an early diagnosis for this disease“, says Enzo Brunetti, neurologist.
Brunetti says the patients who are likely to develop some form of dementia make similar eye movements while navigating through the virtualroom” to those at a developed stage of the disease. With the help of electrodes that measure the brain’s electrical activity, the neurologists run non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG) tests on patients while they navigate through the computer-made universe.
More tests and a larger clinical trial are needed before the treatment can be made available. An early Alzheimer’s diagnosis may not only help patients and their families plan better for the future, but also offer them a possibility of delaying the symptoms with drugs and other existing treatments. Alzheimer’s is very difficult to detect until it has progressed from mild memory loss to clear impairment. Patients eventually lose all ability to care for themselves.