Texas researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have developed a method to enhance the popular Meta Quest 2 VR headset, costing approximately $300, by integrating it with an EEG (electroencephalogram) device and soft, comfortable electrodes. This modification enables the VR headset to record brain activity, offering a promising tool for studying neural responses in virtual environments.

The expansion of VR beyond gaming into areas such as job training, psychotherapy, and remote control applications has created a demand for monitoring brain activity while users are immersed in VR experiences. While existing VR headsets with EEG sensors are limited and expensive, the modified headset by the Texas researchers aims to provide a more user-friendly solution. By utilizing conductive material known as «PEDOT:PSS,» the researchers created spongy electrodes that integrate seamlessly into the headset.

The researchers successfully tested their modified VR headset on four participants. The subjects wore the headset while following commands to open and close their eyes, demonstrating a corresponding increase in alpha brain waves upon eye closure, as expected. Additionally, a custom-designed game triggered specific brain activity related to event preparation, which the researchers were able to detect through EEG data collected by the headset.

The modified VR headset has potential applications in various fields. For instance, it could help doctors assess the efficacy of therapies by monitoring brain responses, or enable airlines to measure mental workload in pilots undergoing VR training. The team at UT Austin is in the process of patenting their technology and is open to collaboration with VR companies to integrate the system into their products.

Article written by  Kristin Houser