Getting to Know Your Working Stress Level through EEG in the Virtual Reality

By | BLOG

How can a CEO ascertain that all of his or her members are working with their full capacity?
Are you sure that your brain is not too overloaded with the everyday working condition?

Source: DEFACTO BLOG

Now with the help of the combined use of electroencephalogram (EEG) and Virtual Reality (VR), you can find out the mental workload and stress level of you and other co-workers. Adopting this combined tool will lead to much more efficient operational decisions that achieve a fair distribution of workload and responsibility among various workers.

What affects job performance?

In fact, a multiple of variables, from workplace culture to the size of work equipment, hinder our ability from thoroughly assessing any situation, which ultimately affects job performance. Mainly, fatigue and stress are critical human factors that should not be taken lightly. EHS Today reported that about a half of US workers suffer from fatigue; this is not only the story of them, but the world workforce population complains of tiredness. The most critical problem in stress at work is that excessive workload and corresponding stress would directly lead to safety issues or sometimes severe injuries. In other words, tiredness affects our judgment and might put our health at risk, and thus, the perceived level of mental stress and workload for workers should be continuously monitored and evaluated so as to secure them from various industrial accidents. Though it sounds like something costly for managers to keep their eyes on, the action is imperative in a sense that managing workers’ stress level would contribute to their overall enhanced work effectiveness.

Bio-signals would help you check your mental workload

Yet, how can we assess one’s workload? There are mainly three types of workload assessment methodologies: subjective measures, performance measures, and physiological measures. Conventionally, people had to rely on the worker’s subjective assessment where the user determines and assesses how much he or she is mentally overloaded by themselves. As a matter of fact, a few versions of Subjective Workload Assessment Techniques (SWAT) have been developed. Nonetheless, such method cannot escape from its fundamental fail point that is it not sensitive enough to catch subtle mental workloads, which if accumulated, can, in turn, lead to chronic fatigue. The performance measures, which record performance scores and use these as an indicator of task demand, or difficulty, is way more objective but they are hard to be widely used due to their intrusiveness to various work settings.

Sensors | Using Psychophysiological Sensors to Assess Mental Workload During Web Browsing

The best and the most straightforward way to make a diagnosis of our physical state is to look at bio-signals. Apart from the conventional methods such as statistical analysis of special events or keeping track of the worker’s complaints, physiological information can be considered to evaluate human factors. In addition, among many other bio-signals, electroencephalogram (EEG) is well-known for high time-resolution, possibility to continuously monitor brain stress with the adequate accuracy, and most importantly, the recognition of human emotion, stress, vigilance, etc. That is, EEG can be utilized to monitor mental workload, emotion, and stress of the workers when they perform any task. Still, some of you might worry about the way to collect EEG signals from the real working environment, as it is hard to be simulated physically. However, now that the virtual reality (VR) technology has been fairly well advanced, simulating your working condition in a virtual environment is not a matter.

Measurement of stress recognition of crew members by EEG in a Virtual Environment

This week’s research review illustrates the measurement of mental workload through EEG in a virtually simulated environment — EEG-based Mental Workload and Stress Recognition of Crew Members in Maritime Virtual Simulator: A case study. The research team has focused their study on the maritime industry where human factors are considered to be one of the leading causes of accidents, attributing to nearly 96% of the entire maritime accidents. Even though the industry has achieved a notable improvement of ship equipment and the overall system, human factors have not been considered enough to enhance the whole safety level. Therefore, the research aimed to study cause and effect of human errors of crew members by monitoring mental workload, emotion and stress level of the maritime trainees.

Fig.1. Simulator at SMA

To be more specific, in order to study the relationship between maritime trainees’ mental workload, stress levels, and task performance, the research team conducted the experiment with four maritime trainees forming the crew. Consisted of an officer on watch (OOW), a steersman, a captain, and a pilot with each assigned with duty corresponding to that of the real crew member, the crew had to navigate the vessel to the destination within SMA’s Integrated Simulation Centre (ISC) where a highly realistic environment was simulated. During their voyage, each of the subject’s emotion level (positive, neutral, negative), workload (no, minimal, moderate, high), and stress (low, medium low, moderate low, medium, medium high, moderate high, high, very high) had been observed and were further analyzed after the experiment.

Fig.2. OOW, captain, and pilot in the simulator during the experiment

The following describes the result of the analysis. The OOW, who always had to maintain watch-keeping was in the most negative emotional state; the captain, who was required to give our orders to the crew and assigned with the most significant responsibility showed the highest workload; the captain and the pilot, who had relatively higher responsibility than OOW and steersman were recorded with higher stress level as well.

Though the experiment is still in a preliminary stage of studying human factors, the success in monitoring emotion, mental workload, and stress implies that the proposed approach can be applied far beyond the maritime domain. The EEG-based human factors evaluation tools can be used for any industry that involves a multiple of people working together. In addition, it is anticipated that such mechanism can broaden the research that studies the human-machine interaction.

LooxidVR: The All-in-one device with VR compatible EEG sensor and eye tracking camera

LooxidVR

Then what should be the next step? In order to achieve a more accurate measurement of human factors in a far more immersing environment, the data-collecting sensor and the environment which is being simulated should be correlated as closely as possible. LooxidVR, the winning product of CES 2018 Best of Innovation Award, is now here for you to provide a robust data acquisition of the user’s brain activity and even eye movement in VR environment. Made by Looxid Labs, Looxid VR is the world first mobile VR headset to provide an interface for both the eyes and the brain. Looxid Labs is ready to provide the integrated solution to many of those who are interested in exploring user’s mind. It will be especially helpful for researchers who are interested in recognizing diverse emotion state of the user such as stress, mental workload, and preference.

LooxidVR has begun pre-order from 1st, Feb. For more information, visit our website www.looxidlabs.com and do not miss the pre-order opportunity to enrich your current research and study.

Also, we are sending our newsletter on the VR trend and VR research periodically. Subscribe us if interested in receiving our newsletter.

Reference

  1. EEG-based Mental Workload and Stress Recognition of Crew Members in Maritime Virtual Simulator: A Case Study | http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8120300/
  2. Human Factors In Safety: How do stress and fatigue affect work? | https://www.pro-sapien.com/blog/2017/10/human-factors-safety-how-stress-fatigue-affect-work/
  3. Workload Assessment | https://www.ergonomicsblog.uk/workload-assessment/

Read More

The Virtual Environment-based Adaptive System Helps Children with Autism to Enhance Social…

By | BLOG

The Virtual Environment-based Adaptive System Helps Children with Autism to Enhance Social Functioning

According to estimates from CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, about 1 in 68 children in this world is suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a developmental disability that can cause some significant social problems including difficulties communicating and interacting with others. Specifically, children with ASD have shown impairment in understanding complex facial emotional expressions of others and are slow when processing people’s faces. In other words, they can hardly get the sense of context when interacting with people, which might later cause more severe problems in communication.

Unfortunately, little is known about the diagnosis and even treatment for ASD; currently, there is no cure for ASD but only some evidence which states that early intervention treatment services can improve a child’s development. These services refer to medical therapy that helps the child talk, walk, and interact with others. However, the real problem that blocks children with ASD to overcome social interaction impairments lies in the lack of accessibility of the therapy. The traditional intervention paradigm, which requires a professional therapist to sit next to the child, is not accessible to the vast majority of ASD population. There aren’t as many trained therapists available to assist a lot of children in need of help, and even when they are accessible, it is burdensome for the most of the households with ASD child to afford excessive intervention costs.

Technology can help children with ASD to overcome social interaction disabilities

There is good news, though. Recent advances in computer and robotic technology are introducing innovative assistive technologies for ASD therapy. In particular, among all emerging technologies, virtual Reality (VR) is the most leading one since it has its potential to individualize autism therapy to offer useful technology-enabled therapeutic systems. As children suffering ASD manifest varying social deficits from one individual to another, it is exceedingly essential to provide proper help to each of them through personalized therapy; VR-based intervention system that keeps track of the child’s mental state can fulfill this customization need. Moreover, a number of studies indicated that many children with ASD are in favor of the advanced technology. This preference can be further interpreted to assume that the new intervention paradigm for ASD such as VR might be, and should be well adopted by children with ASD.

Multimodal Adaptive Social Interaction in Virtual Environment

To the point, this week’s research review covers the new VR-based intervention system by introducing Multimodal Adaptive Social Interaction in Virtual Environment (MASI-VR) for children with ASD. This study presents design, development and a usability study of MASI-VR platform. It first has aimed to design the multimodal VR-based social interaction platform that integrates eye gaze, EEG signals, and peripheral psychophysiological signals. The research team has proved the usefulness of the designed system, particularly for emotional face processing task. Through this review, we hope you to get the sense of how virtual environment based technological system works as a whole to help improve overall social functioning in autism.

Synthesizing different aspects of a social interaction

The research team has designed the VR system that incorporated various aspects of emotional social interaction. The system, in turn, aims to help children with ASD to learn proper processing of emotional faces.

Fig.1. System architecture of MASI-VR

It mainly consists of three parts: VR task engine and dialog management module; the central supervisory controller; peripheral interfaces that monitor eye gaze, EEG, and peripheral physiological signals to assess the subject’s affective state. When the central controller facilitates the event synchronization between the other two parts, the subject starts to undergo various social task while their physiological information is collected and analyzed in real time. The signals further work as a primary determinant to control the next stage within the virtual environment, letting the whole process to become individualized.

Fig.2. Various emotion and gestural animations

To be more specific, there were total seven characters of teenagers presented in the virtual environment, and they can change their facial emotional expressions among seven kinds (enjoyment, surprise, contempt, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger) in line with the situational context. In the pre-set VR cafeteria environment, the subject wanders around the virtual space and meets one of the characters who wishes to interact with the subject. In this situation, the subject can either choose or not choose to start a conversation with the avatar. If it decides to communicate, different kinds of conversational dialog missions will take place. After each session, the training trial begins for the subject to practice recognizing the character’s emotional state through observing its facial expression. At the end of each dialog, the face of the character will be presented with oval occlusion. The occlusion will gradually disappear following the gaze of the subject to give adaptive gaze feedback. This process encourages children with ASD to look at critical parts in the face that determines one’s emotional state such as areas around eyes and mouth. Therefore, if the subject succeeds in paying enough attention to those parts, the face reveals the emotion and the subject gets to choose what the emotion was.

Fig.3. The VR cafeteria environment for the social task

Effectiveness of MASI-VR in improving eventual social functioning

In order to prove the usability and effectiveness of the gaze-sensitive system, the nearly identical system only without gaze feedback was also tested by the control group. The performance difference showed that the adaptive system was significantly more helpful to enhance the subject’s engagement to the social task as well as the accuracy of recognizing the character’s facial emotion. In other words, MASI-VR is considerably useful in training core deficit areas of children with ASD. Though the study is still in the preliminary stage, the findings suggest that VR-based social interactive environment can be utilized to help improve the eventual social functioning of those with ASD.

LooxidVR monitors eye gaze and EEG in the virtual environment

Now that the effectiveness of Multimodal Adaptive Social Interaction in Virtual Environment for children with social communication disabilities has been proved, which device should be chosen to further enrich the study to develop the quality of the therapy?

LooxidVR

In the study, several different devices were used simultaneously to monitor each corresponding physiological signals from the subject. However, there exists some inconvenience caused in the process of installing and setting up all of those devices; it would be best if the entire data can be collected and analyzed in a single VR device. Though sounds like a future dream yet to be realized, there is one in this world that enables concurrent measurement of a person’s eye gaze and EEG data in VR situation. LooxidVR, the world first mobile VR headset to provide an interface for both the eyes and the brain, allows robust data acquisition through VR compatible sensor that measures the user’s brain activity and eye movement. Recently winning Best Of Innovation Award at CES 2018, Looxid Labs is ready to provide the integrated solution to many of those who are interested in exploring user’s mind. With LooxidVR, further development of in-person therapy for children with ASD to enhance social functioning would come true.

LooxidVR pre-orders will start on Feb 1st, 2018. For more information, visit our website www.looxidlabs.com and do not miss the pre-order opportunity to enrich your current research and study.

Also, we are sending our newsletter on the VR trend and VR research periodically. Subscribe us if interested in receiving our newsletter.

Reference

  1. Multimodal adaptive social interaction in virtual environment (MASI-VR) for children with Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)| Virtual Reality (VR), 2016 IEEE
  2. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Read More

Science Stuff that You shouldn’t Miss in The Big Bang Theory: The Yerkes and Dodson Law

By | BLOG

A Little Anxiety Won’t Kill You, It Will Make You Stronger

Imagine the sound that irritates you the most: nails on a chalkboard, a baby crying or (for some people) Taylor Swift music. While it may be frustrating for you, your stressful feelings may actually improve your performance. This idea is not new though; it also showed up in a beloved sitcom Big Bang Theory when Sheldon, a renowned physicist, tries to find his optimal anxiety level.

In Big Bang Theory episode 13 from season 8, Sheldon gets stuck with his work in Dark Matter and wants to make himself more efficient. In order to do so, he tries to optimize his work environment but sees no progress in it and believes that he has created too pleasant of an environment to work in. So instead of putting himself in a comfort zone, he thinks that he should increase his anxiety level and seeks the help of his girlfriend Amy who happens to be a neuroscientist.

Sheldon: According to a classic psychological experiment by Yerkes and Dodson, in order to maximize performance, one must create a state of productive anxiety.

They begin the experiment by first measuring the baseline of his brain activity and then by basically ‘making Sheldon irritated’ while he is wearing a EEG cap. For instance, while Sheldon is solving a maze, Amy starts to make squeaky noises by rubbing a balloon. Finding the sound intolerable, Sheldon ends up popping up the balloon and says that he was aiming for her heart. The experiment eventually fails as Sheldon vetoes to all the suggestions that Amy made.

Amy: Look, I know you don’t like it, but that’s the point of the experiment. I need to irritate you to find your optimal anxiety zone. And you said no to tickling, polka music or watching me eat a banana.

At this point, one might wonder if this experiment has a solid ground. So we delved into the experiment done by Yerkes and Dodson and the answer was, YES! It is useful to find one’s optimal anxiety level in order to increase work productivity. The actual experiment was done in a slightly different way than that of Sheldon and Amy, though.

Hebbian version of the Yerkes–Dodson law

Above all, the biggest difference was that their experiment was based on the behaviors of rats instead of humans. In the experiment, rats were put in a maze with only one right way to escape and whenever they went to the wrong route, for instance entering a box through a white door, they received electrical shocks. (brutal, right?) In the end, they discovered that while increasing voltage made the rats to perform faster and better, after a certain point the rats started to slow down, freeze or retreat. This showed how certain level of stress can become a motivation and increase an individual’s performance though the optimal level may vary on individuals. Likewise, measuring stress and anxiety levels in research can bring meaningful insights to the research.

Why LooxidVR?

LooxidVR | CES2018 Best of Innovation in VR

Looxid Labs’ LooxidVR proved its potential in psychology and neuroscience research at this year’s CES. The VR headset combined with EEG sensors and eye-tracking cameras has a possibility of becoming a major research kit that fulfills both portability and efficacy. Instead of manually irritating Sheldon by rubbing balloons and eating bananas, Amy could have simply put Sheldon in a VR environment where he could be fully immersed in the experiment and measure his stress level with EEG sensors attached to the headset. So if you are a psychologist or a neuroscientist like Amy, consider enriching your experiment with this award-winning research kit.

LooxidVR pre-orders will start on Feb 1st, 2018. If you want to learn more about LooxidVR and Looxid Labs, feel free to visit our website at www.looxidlabs.com.

Also, we are sending our newsletter on the VR trend and VR research periodically. Subscribe us if interested in receiving our newsletter.

Read More