31 January 2015

Entertainment Computing Paper

Last month, my latest research paper entitled ‘Comparing interaction techniques for serious games through brain-computer interfaces: A user perception evaluation study’ was published at the journal of ‘Entertainment Computing’. The paper is co-authored with colleagues from Warwick University, University of Madeira and Coventry University. It examines the application of commercial and non-invasive electroencephalography (EEG)-based brain–computer (BCIs) interfaces with serious games. Two different EEG-based BCI devices were used to fully control the same serious game. The first device (NeuroSky MindSet) uses only a single dry electrode and requires no calibration.

The second device (Emotiv EPOC) uses 14 wet sensors requiring additional training of a classifier. User testing was performed on both devices with sixty-two participants measuring the player experience as well as key aspects of serious games, primarily learnability, satisfaction, performance and effort. Recorded feedback indicates that the current state of BCIs can be used in the future as alternative game interfaces after familiarisation and in some cases calibration. Comparative analysis showed significant differences between the two devices. The first device provides more satisfaction to the players whereas the second device is more effective in terms of adaptation and interaction with the serious game.

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24 January 2015

3D Greenland Ice Sheet

Scientists using ice-penetrating radar data collected by NASA's Operation IceBridge and earlier airborne campaigns have built the first comprehensive map of layers deep inside the Greenland Ice Sheet, opening a window on past climate conditions and the ice sheet's potentially perilous future. This new map allows scientists to determine the age of large swaths of the second largest mass of ice on Earth, an area containing enough water to raise ocean levels by about 20 feet. Greenland's ice sheet has been losing mass during the past two decades, a phenomenon accelerated by warming temperatures. Scientists are studying ice from different climate periods in the past to better understand how the ice sheet might respond in the future. These cylinders of ice drilled from the ice sheet hold evidence of past snow accumulation and temperature and contain impurities such as dust and volcanic ash compacted over hundreds of thousands of years. These layers are visible in ice cores and can be detected with ice-penetrating radar. Ice-penetrating radar works by sending radar signals into the ice and recording the strength and return time of reflected signals. From those signals, scientists can detect the ice surface, sub-ice bedrock and layers within the ice. New techniques used in this study allowed scientists to efficiently pick out these layers in radar data.

Prior studies had mapped internal layers, but not at the scale made possible by these newer, faster methods. Another major factor in this study was the scope of Operation IceBridge's measurements across Greenland, which included flights that covered distances of tens of thousands of kilometers across the ice sheet. IceBridge's flight lines often intersect ice core sites where other scientists have analyzed the ice's chemical composition to map and date layers in the ice. These core data provide a reference for radar measurements and provide a way to calculate how much ice from a given climate period exists across the ice sheet, something known as an age volume. Scientists are interested in knowing more about ice from the Eemian period, a time from 115,000 to 130,000 years ago that was about as warm as today. This new age volume provides the first data-driven estimate of where Eemian ice may remain. Comparing this age volume to simple computer models helped the study's team better understand the ice sheet's history. Differences in the mapped and modeled age volumes point to past changes in ice flow or processes such as melting at the ice sheet's base. This information will be helpful for evaluating the more sophisticated ice sheet models that are crucial for projecting Greenland's future contribution to sea-level rise.

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22 January 2015

HoloLens - Microsoft’s Holographic Goggles

Microsoft has revealed their new HoloLens computer, the headset contains a CPU, GPU, and a new Holographic Processing Unit. The unit allows for wire free/wireless use and is built with Windows 10. In the concept demonstration, Microsoft showed a designer applying a virtual motorcycle body kit to a real motorcycle. They showed people playing in 'Minecraft' in their living room just like a table sized Lego set. Microsoft also showed how holograms created in the new Holo Studio could become 3D printed items. Build 3D in 3D was with the word, but holographic 'Minecraft,' holographic 'Skype,' and holographic NASA were the show.

Not only is the HoloLens its own independent hologra, producing computing platform, but to make what the user is seeing interactive, the HoloLens also tracks hands and voice. The visual overlay and interactivity is supplemented by surround sound in a 3D sound field. The HoloLens was demonstrated as a finished looking/preproduction unit, which is to say that it's way past the concept stage. MS even said that it has had content developers working on holographic content for years while the tech has been being developed beneath the Microsoft Vistor Center. Microsoft has promised that Windows 10 will come later this year, while HoloLens will be elaborated on in April.

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21 January 2015

VR Brain Game Detects Mild Cognitive Impairment

Greek researchers demonstrated the potential of a virtual supermarket cognitive training game as a screening tool for patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) among a sample of older adults. MCI is a condition that often predates Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and is characterized by memory loss and inability to execute complex activities such as financial planning. So far virtual reality game–based applications and especially virtual supermarkets have been used as cognitive training applications and as measures of cognitive functions, although it has been shown that they can detect MCI only when used in combination with standardized neuropsychological tests. However scientists from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (GAADRD) and the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas/Information Technologies Institute (CERTH/ITI) have succeeded in making the shift to MCI screening via robust virtual reality game applications that can be used on their own for accurate MCI detection.

A large number of older adults use computerized cognitive training exercises/games as an easy and enjoyable means of exercising their brain. If these games and exercises can also detect cognitive disorders, the whole cognitive screening process could become more pleasurable, thus motivating more people to be evaluated. With the majority of older adults examining their cognitive health regularly through such games, possible cognitive impairment will be detected at the MCI stage thus allowing patients to enjoy a better quality of life and remain independent for a longer time. The use of the VSM as a robust screening test could have profound implications for the diagnosis and treatment of MCI, the most important of which is the possibility for automated remote MCI screening. The performance of older adults playing such a game at home could be monitored and an algorithm embedded in the game could inform them when their performance suggests possible cognitive impairment due to MCI, prompting them to visit an appropriate health service.

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15 January 2015

Huge 3D Displays Without 3D Glasses

A new invention opens the door to a new generation of outdoor displays. Different pictures can be seen at different angles, creating 3D effects without the need for 3D glasses. Public screenings have become an important part of major sports events. In the future, we will be able to enjoy them in 3D, thanks to a new invention from Austrian scientists. A sophisticated laser system sends laser beams into different directions. Therefore, different pictures are visible from different angles. The angular resolution is so fine that the left eye is presented a different picture than the right one, creating a 3D effect.

TriLite and TU Vienna have created the first prototype. Currently it only has a modest resolution of five pixels by three, but it clearly shows that the system works. At the moment, they are creating a second prototype, which will display colour pictures with a higher resolution. But the crucial point is that the individual laser pixels work. Scaling it up to a display with many pixels is not a problem. To experience the 3D effect, the viewer must be positioned in a certain distance range from the screen. If the distance is too large, both eyes receive the same image and only a normal 2D picture can be seen.

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