VR Keynote: Aldis Sipolins, IBM Research


NYIT Auditorium on Broadway 1871 Broadway NY NY 10023 May 21, 2017 11:15 am - 11:35 am

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Aldis Sipolins

Aldis Sipolins, Head of Virtual Reality and Game Design at IBM Research explores his work with VR:

Virtual reality can trick your brain into believing you’re somewhere real. This power is called Presence, and it revolutionizes psychological research. Human cognition is hard to study in the lab. You can’t expect someone to act naturally in a copper-shielded room with their scalp covered by electrodes, and remembering lists of words on a computer screen is has little to do with everyday life. VR lets us, for the first time, study human behavior in a way that generalizes to the real world.

A research experiment (published here: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3027390) sought to uncover the neural signature of memory and found some surprising results. Participants completed a memory game in VR and on a flat computer screen while wearing an EEG brain sensing headband. Machine learning techniques were able to successfully predict memory based on brain activity, but only in VR. A follow-up study will chase down this mysterious interaction by adding physiological signals (eye tracking, heart rate, breathing rate, etc.) and using machine learning to enhance memory in real-time.

Why does brain activity predict memory better in VR than on a flat screen? What goes on in our brains when we believe we’re somewhere else? Is there a neural signature of presence? It wouldn’t be science if we already knew the answers.