Last year, Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook social virtual reality platform with an extended set of emotions. Emotions are an important part of communication. It’s hard to read someone’s expression when one is wearing VR headset. Neuroscience and computing company MindMaze are trying to resolve this issue.
The MindMaze Mask is basically a ring of electrodes which can be installed in any VR headset’s foam face mask. Actually, by making different expressions, you are pressing different buttons from your face. Different sensors detect a certain level of pressure and the parameters are matched with the facial expressions. Moreover, the performance of this mask is enhanced by the use of software predictions. Avatars are cartoons which can transform into anything a developer wants.
These sensors are also embedded in HTC Vive. Its long-term use can’t be predicted but it can easily detect expressions like smiling, being angry, raising eyebrows and frowning. However, blinking is reflected after a minor delay.
Alternatives to Mask are present but these are not popular and some of them are limited. Eye tracking has been previously used in VR headset but it still is not popular. Emotions could be set manually, but this takes an additional step which doesn’t give a natural feeling. Facebook’s new technology doesn’t require the user to manually enter their emotions. It extrapolates from head, voice and hand movements.
Mask is still in developing stage and can’t be declared perfect. It does not offer eyebrow furrow and shows an angry expression instead. There is a wide range of emotions and expressions but sensors are putting a limit to it.
Despite its shortcoming, this does not make this Mask an unsuccessful technology. If it’s cheap, then it could be used to express simple emotions like surprise and smile. It may not be a life-changing gadget but it clearly provides a simple solution to a problem.