Jul 09, 2014

Experiential Virtual Scenarios With Real-Time Monitoring (Interreality) for the Management of Psychological Stress: A Block Randomized Controlled Trial

Gaggioli, A., Pallavicini, F., Morganti, L. et al. (2014) Journal of Medical Internet Research. 16(7):e167. DOI: 10.2196/jmir.3235

The recent convergence between technology and medicine is offering innovative methods and tools for behavioral health care. Among these, an emerging approach is the use of virtual reality (VR) within exposure-based protocols for anxiety disorders, and in particular posttraumatic stress disorder. However, no systematically tested VR protocols are available for the management of psychological stress. Objective: Our goal was to evaluate the efficacy of a new technological paradigm, Interreality, for the management and prevention of psychological stress. The main feature of Interreality is a twofold link between the virtual and the real world achieved through experiential virtual scenarios (fully controlled by the therapist, used to learn coping skills and improve self-efficacy) with real-time monitoring and support (identifying critical situations and assessing clinical change) using advanced technologies (virtual worlds, wearable biosensors, and smartphones).

Full text paper available at: http://www.jmir.org/2014/7/e167/

Jun 30, 2014

Never do a Tango with an Eskimo

Apr 15, 2014

Avegant - Glyph Kickstarter - Wearable Retinal Display

Via Mashable

Move over Google Glass and Oculus Rift, there's a new kid on the block: Glyph, a mobile, personal theater.

Glyph looks like a normal headset and operates like one, too. That is, until you move the headband down over your eyes and it becomes a fully-functional visual visor that displays movies, television shows, video games or any other media connected via the attached HDMI cable.

Using Virtual Retinal Display (VRD), a technology that mimics the way we see light, the Glyph projects images directly onto your retina using one million micromirrors in each eye piece. These micromirrors reflect the images back to the retina, producing a reportedly crisp and vivid quality.

Apr 06, 2014

Measuring the effects through time of the influence of visuomotor and visuotactile synchronous stimulation on a virtual body ownership illusion

Measuring the effects through time of the influence of visuomotor and visuotactile synchronous stimulation on a virtual body ownership illusion.

Perception. 2014;43(1):43-58

Authors: Kokkinara E, Slater M

Abstract. Previous studies have examined the experience of owning a virtual surrogate body or body part through specific combinations of cross-modal multisensory stimulation. Both visuomotor (VM) and visuotactile (VT) synchronous stimulation have been shown to be important for inducing a body ownership illusion, each tested separately or both in combination. In this study we compared the relative importance of these two cross-modal correlations, when both are provided in the same immersive virtual reality setup and the same experiment. We systematically manipulated VT and VM contingencies in order to assess their relative role and mutual interaction. Moreover, we present a new method for measuring the induced body ownership illusion through time, by recording reports of breaks in the illusion of ownership ('breaks') throughout the experimental phase. The balance of the evidence, from both questionnaires and analysis of the breaks, suggests that while VM synchronous stimulation contributes the greatest to the attainment of the illusion, a disruption of either (through asynchronous stimulation) contributes equally to the probability of a break in the illusion.

Mar 02, 2014

Voluntary Out-of-Body Experience: An fMRI Study

Voluntary Out-of-Body Experience: An fMRI Study.

Front Hum Neurosci. 2014;8:70

Authors: Smith AM, Messier C

The present single-case study examined functional brain imaging patterns in a participant that reported being able, at will, to produce somatosensory sensations that are experienced as her body moving outside the boundaries of her physical body all the while remaining aware of her unmoving physical body. We found that the brain functional changes associated with the reported extra-corporeal experience (ECE) were different than those observed in motor imagery. Activations were mainly left-sided and involved the left supplementary motor area and supramarginal and posterior superior temporal gyri, the last two overlapping with the temporal parietal junction that has been associated with out-of-body experiences. The cerebellum also showed activation that is consistent with the participant's report of the impression of movement during the ECE. There was also left middle and superior orbital frontal gyri activity, regions often associated with action monitoring. The results suggest that the ECE reported here represents an unusual type of kinesthetic imagery.

Humanlike robot hands controlled by brain activity arouse illusion of ownership in operators.

Humanlike robot hands controlled by brain activity arouse illusion of ownership in operators.

Sci Rep. 2013;3:2396

Authors: Alimardani M, Nishio S, Ishiguro H

Operators of a pair of robotic hands report ownership for those hands when they hold image of a grasp motion and watch the robot perform it. We present a novel body ownership illusion that is induced by merely watching and controlling robot's motions through a brain machine interface. In past studies, body ownership illusions were induced by correlation of such sensory inputs as vision, touch and proprioception. However, in the presented illusion none of the mentioned sensations are integrated except vision. Our results show that during BMI-operation of robotic hands, the interaction between motor commands and visual feedback of the intended motions is adequate to incorporate the non-body limbs into one's own body. Our discussion focuses on the role of proprioceptive information in the mechanism of agency-driven illusions. We believe that our findings will contribute to improvement of tele-presence systems in which operators incorporate BMI-operated robots into their body representations.

Feb 09, 2014

The importance of synchrony and temporal order of visual and tactile input for illusory limb ownership experiences - an FMRI study applying virtual reality

The importance of synchrony and temporal order of visual and tactile input for illusory limb ownership experiences - an FMRI study applying virtual reality.

PLoS One. 2014;9(1):e87013

Authors: Bekrater-Bodmann R, Foell J, Diers M, Kamping S, Rance M, Kirsch P, Trojan J, Fuchs X, Bach F, Cakmak HK, Maaß H, Flor H

Abstract. In the so-called rubber hand illusion, synchronous visuotactile stimulation of a visible rubber hand together with one's own hidden hand elicits ownership experiences for the artificial limb. Recently, advanced virtual reality setups were developed to induce a virtual hand illusion (VHI). Here, we present functional imaging data from a sample of 25 healthy participants using a new device to induce the VHI in the environment of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. In order to evaluate the neuronal robustness of the illusion, we varied the degree of synchrony between visual and tactile events in five steps: in two conditions, the tactile stimulation was applied prior to visual stimulation (asynchrony of -300 ms or -600 ms), whereas in another two conditions, the tactile stimulation was applied after visual stimulation (asynchrony of +300 ms or +600 ms). In the fifth condition, tactile and visual stimulation was applied synchronously. On a subjective level, the VHI was successfully induced by synchronous visuotactile stimulation. Asynchronies between visual and tactile input of ±300 ms did not significantly diminish the vividness of illusion, whereas asynchronies of ±600 ms did. The temporal order of visual and tactile stimulation had no effect on VHI vividness. Conjunction analyses of functional MRI data across all conditions revealed significant activation in bilateral ventral premotor cortex (PMv). Further characteristic activation patterns included bilateral activity in the motion-sensitive medial superior temporal area as well as in the bilateral Rolandic operculum, suggesting their involvement in the processing of bodily awareness through the integration of visual and tactile events. A comparison of the VHI-inducing conditions with asynchronous control conditions of ±600 ms yielded significant PMv activity only contralateral to the stimulation site. These results underline the temporal limits of the induction of limb ownership related to multisensory body-related input.

Feb 02, 2014

Activation of the human mirror neuron system during the observation of the manipulation of virtual tools in the absence of a visible effector limb

Activation of the human mirror neuron system during the observation of the manipulation of virtual tools in the absence of a visible effector limb.

Neurosci Lett. 2013 Oct 25;555:220-4

Authors: Modroño C, Navarrete G, Rodríguez-Hernández AF, González-Mora JL

Abstract. This work explores the mirror neuron system activity produced by the observation of virtual tool manipulations in the absence of a visible effector limb. Functional MRI data was obtained from healthy right-handed participants who manipulated a virtual paddle in the context of a digital game and watched replays of their actions. The results show how action observation produced extended bilateral activations in the parietofrontal mirror neuron system. At the same time, three regions in the left hemisphere (in the primary motor and the primary somatosensory cortex, the supplementary motor area and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) showed a reduced BOLD, possibly related with the prevention of inappropriate motor execution. These results can be of interest for researchers and developers working in the field of action observation neurorehabilitation.

Jan 25, 2014

MemoryMirror: First Body-Controlled Smart Mirror

The Intel® Core™ i7-based MemoryMirror takes the clothes shopping experience to a whole different level, allowing shoppers to try on multiple outfits, then virtually view and compare previous choices on the mirror itself using intuitive hand gestures. Users control all their data and can remain anonymous to the retailer if they so choose. The Memory Mirror uses Intel integrated graphics technology to create avatars of the shopper wearing various clothing that can be shared with friends to solicit feedback or viewed instantly to make an immediate in-store purchase. Shoppers can also save their looks in mobile app should they decide to purchase at a later time online.

Jan 21, 2014

The Oculus Rift 'Crystal Cove' prototype is 2014's Best of CES winner

Dec 19, 2013

Tricking the brain with transformative virtual reality

Nov 20, 2013


inFORM is a Dynamic Shape Display developed by MIT Tangible Media Group that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way.

inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface.

Remote participants in a video conference can be displayed physically, allowing for a strong sense of presence and the ability to interact physically at a distance.

Nov 16, 2013

Monkeys Control Avatar’s Arms Through Brain-Machine Interface

Via Medgadget

Researchers at Duke University have reported in journal Science Translational Medicine that they were able to train monkeys to control two virtual limbs through a brain-computer interface (BCI). The rhesus monkeys initially used joysticks to become comfortable moving the avatar’s arms, but later the brain-computer interfaces implanted on their brains were activated to allow the monkeys to drive the avatar using only their minds. Two years ago the same team was able to train monkeys to control one arm, but the complexity of controlling two arms required the development of a new algorithm for reading and filtering the signals. Moreover, the monkey brains themselves showed great adaptation to the training with the BCI, building new neural pathways to help improve how the monkeys moved the virtual arms. As the authors of the study note in the abstract, “These findings should help in the design of more sophisticated BMIs capable of enabling bimanual motor control in human patients.”

Here’s a video of one of the avatars being controlled to tap on the white balls:

Aug 07, 2013

On Phenomenal Consciousness

A recent introductory talk on the problem that consciousness and qualia presents to physicalism by Frank C. Jackson.

Welcome to wonderland: the influence of the size and shape of a virtual hand on the perceived size and shape of virtual objects

Welcome to wonderland: the influence of the size and shape of a virtual hand on the perceived size and shape of virtual objects.

PLoS One. 2013;8(7):e68594

Authors: Linkenauger SA, Leyrer M, Bülthoff HH, Mohler BJ

The notion of body-based scaling suggests that our body and its action capabilities are used to scale the spatial layout of the environment. Here we present four studies supporting this perspective by showing that the hand acts as a metric which individuals use to scale the apparent sizes of objects in the environment. However to test this, one must be able to manipulate the size and/or dimensions of the perceiver's hand which is difficult in the real world due to impliability of hand dimensions. To overcome this limitation, we used virtual reality to manipulate dimensions of participants' fully-tracked, virtual hands to investigate its influence on the perceived size and shape of virtual objects. In a series of experiments, using several measures, we show that individuals' estimations of the sizes of virtual objects differ depending on the size of their virtual hand in the direction consistent with the body-based scaling hypothesis. Additionally, we found that these effects were specific to participants' virtual hands rather than another avatar's hands or a salient familiar-sized object. While these studies provide support for a body-based approach to the scaling of the spatial layout, they also demonstrate the influence of virtual bodies on perception of virtual environments.

Using avatars to model weight loss behaviors: participant attitudes and technology development.

Using avatars to model weight loss behaviors: participant attitudes and technology development.

J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2013;7(4):1057-65

Authors: Napolitano MA, Hayes S, Russo G, Muresu D, Giordano A, Foster GD

BACKGROUND: Virtual reality and other avatar-based technologies are potential methods for demonstrating and modeling weight loss behaviors. This study examined avatar-based technology as a tool for modeling weight loss behaviors. METHODS: This study consisted of two phases: (1) an online survey to obtain feedback about using avatars for modeling weight loss behaviors and (2) technology development and usability testing to create an avatar-based technology program for modeling weight loss behaviors. RESULTS: Results of phase 1 (n = 128) revealed that interest was high, with 88.3% stating that they would participate in a program that used an avatar to help practice weight loss skills in a virtual environment. In phase 2, avatars and modules to model weight loss skills were developed. Eight women were recruited to participate in a 4-week usability test, with 100% reporting they would recommend the program and that it influenced their diet/exercise behavior. Most women (87.5%) indicated that the virtual models were helpful. After 4 weeks, average weight loss was 1.6 kg (standard deviation = 1.7). CONCLUSIONS: This investigation revealed a high level of interest in an avatar-based program, with formative work indicating promise. Given the high costs associated with in vivo exposure and practice, this study demonstrates the potential use of avatar-based technology as a tool for modeling weight loss behaviors.Abstract

What Color is My Arm? Changes in Skin Color of an Embodied Virtual Arm Modulates Pain Threshold

What Color is My Arm? Changes in Skin Color of an Embodied Virtual Arm Modulates Pain Threshold.

Front Hum Neurosci. 2013;7:438

Authors: Martini M, Perez-Marcos D, Sanchez-Vives MV

It has been demonstrated that visual inputs can modulate pain. However, the influence of skin color on pain perception is unknown. Red skin is associated to inflamed, hot and more sensitive skin, while blue is associated to cyanotic, cold skin. We aimed to test whether the color of the skin would alter the heat pain threshold. To this end, we used an immersive virtual environment where we induced embodiment of a virtual arm that was co-located with the real one and seen from a first-person perspective. Virtual reality allowed us to dynamically modify the color of the skin of the virtual arm. In order to test pain threshold, increasing ramps of heat stimulation applied on the participants' arm were delivered concomitantly with the gradual intensification of different colors on the embodied avatar's arm. We found that a reddened arm significantly decreased the pain threshold compared with normal and bluish skin. This effect was specific when red was seen on the arm, while seeing red in a spot outside the arm did not decrease pain threshold. These results demonstrate an influence of skin color on pain perception. This top-down modulation of pain through visual input suggests a potential use of embodied virtual bodies for pain therapy.

Full text open access

The Computer Game That Helps Therapists Chat to Adolescents With Mental Health Problems

Via MIT Technology Review

Adolescents with mental health problems are particularly hard for therapists to engage. But a new computer game is providing a healthy conduit for effective communication between them.

Read the full story on MIT Technology Review

Detecting delay in visual feedback of an action as a monitor of self recognition

Detecting delay in visual feedback of an action as a monitor of self recognition.

Exp Brain Res. 2012 Oct;222(4):389-97

Authors: Hoover AE, Harris LR

Abstract. How do we distinguish "self" from "other"? The correlation between willing an action and seeing it occur is an important cue. We exploited the fact that this correlation needs to occur within a restricted temporal window in order to obtain a quantitative assessment of when a body part is identified as "self". We measured the threshold and sensitivity (d') for detecting a delay between movements of the finger (of both the dominant and non-dominant hands) and visual feedback as seen from four visual perspectives (the natural view, and mirror-reversed and/or inverted views). Each trial consisted of one presentation with minimum delay and another with a delay of between 33 and 150 ms. Participants indicated which presentation contained the delayed view. We varied the amount of efference copy available for this task by comparing performances for discrete movements and continuous movements. Discrete movements are associated with a stronger efference copy. Sensitivity to detect asynchrony between visual and proprioceptive information was significantly higher when movements were viewed from a "plausible" self perspective compared with when the view was reversed or inverted. Further, we found differences in performance between dominant and non-dominant hand finger movements across the continuous and single movements. Performance varied with the viewpoint from which the visual feedback was presented and on the efferent component such that optimal performance was obtained when the presentation was in the normal natural orientation and clear efferent information was available. Variations in sensitivity to visual/non-visual temporal incongruence with the viewpoint in which a movement is seen may help determine the arrangement of the underlying visual representation of the body.

Jul 23, 2013

Illusory ownership of a virtual child body causes overestimation of object sizes and implicit attitude changes

Illusory ownership of a virtual child body causes overestimation of object sizes and implicit attitude changes.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013 Jul 15;

Authors: Banakou D, Groten R, Slater M

Abstract. An illusory sensation of ownership over a surrogate limb or whole body can be induced through specific forms of multisensory stimulation, such as synchronous visuotactile tapping on the hidden real and visible rubber hand in the rubber hand illusion. Such methods have been used to induce ownership over a manikin and a virtual body that substitute the real body, as seen from first-person perspective, through a head-mounted display. However, the perceptual and behavioral consequences of such transformed body ownership have hardly been explored. In Exp. 1, immersive virtual reality was used to embody 30 adults as a 4-y-old child (condition C), and as an adult body scaled to the same height as the child (condition A), experienced from the first-person perspective, and with virtual and real body movements synchronized. The result was a strong body-ownership illusion equally for C and A. Moreover there was an overestimation of the sizes of objects compared with a nonembodied baseline, which was significantly greater for C compared with A. An implicit association test showed that C resulted in significantly faster reaction times for the classification of self with child-like compared with adult-like attributes. Exp. 2 with an additional 16 participants extinguished the ownership illusion by using visuomotor asynchrony, with all else equal. The size-estimation and implicit association test differences between C and A were also extinguished. We conclude that there are perceptual and probably behavioral correlates of body-ownership illusions that occur as a function of the type of body in which embodiment occurs.

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