Researchers have published the first demonstration of humans playing a simple, two-dimensional computer game using only input from direct brain stimulation -- without relying on any usual sensory cues from sight, hearing or touch.
University of Washington researchers have taken a first step in showing how humans can interact with virtual realities via direct brain stimulation.
In a paper published online Nov. 16 in Frontiers in Robotics and AI, they describe the first demonstration of humans playing a simple, two-dimensional computer game using only input from direct brain stimulation -- without relying on any usual sensory cues from sight, hearing or touch.
The subjects had to navigate 21 different mazes, with two choices to move forward or down based on whether they sensed a visual stimulation artifact called a phosphene, which are perceived as blobs or bars of light. To signal which direction to move, the researchers generated a phosphene through transcranial magnetic stimulation, a well-known technique that uses a magnetic coil placed near the skull to directly and noninvasively stimulate a specific area of the brain.
"The way virtual reality is done these days is through displays, headsets and goggles, but ultimately your brain is what creates your reality," said senior author Rajesh Rao, UW professor of Computer Science & Engineering and director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering.
"The fundamental question we wanted to answer was: Can the brain make use of artificial information that it's never seen before that is delivered directly to the brain to navigate a virtual world or do useful tasks without other sensory input? And the answer is yes."
The five test subjects made the right moves in the mazes 92 percent of the time when they received the input via direct brain stimulation, compared to 15 percent of the time when they lacked that guidance.
The simple game demonstrates one way that novel information from artificial sensors or computer-generated virtual worlds can be successfully encoded and delivered noninvasively to the human brain to solve useful tasks. It employs a technology commonly used in neuroscience to study how the brain works -- transcranial magnetic stimulation -- to instead convey actionable information to the brain.
Read more here: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161206103533.htm