Researchers at University of California at San Diego are blending the popular CAVE 3D immersive virtual reality platform with EEG and eye tracking technology to help design human-friendly clinical environments. The CAVE at UCSD utilizes sixteen 3D projection screens (including the floor) that completely surround the participants.
The CAVE-CAD project then uses this space to track how participants react to various architectural designs and concepts, and what changes can be made to the virtual environment right from within the simulator. UCSD spokesman tells Medgadget that this research has implications for Alzheimer’s patients as well as for the design of hospitals.
CAVE-CAD also incorporates technology from another Calit2 project to precisely place sounds in the 3D environment. This technology, called SoniCAVE, allows CAVE-CAD researchers to simulate the acoustical environment in a given building design. Edelstein and SoniCAVE developer, Peter Otto, professor in UCSD’s Department of Music and director of Calit2’s Sonic Arts Research and Development group, have used CAVE-CAD and SoniCAVE to simulate real hospital environments, where the sound of ambient patient monitoring equipment can often interfere with conversations between medical personnel — and even lead to medical error.
[Eva] Edelstein’s studies found that the noise during shift change in a hospital peaks at 120 decibels, the equivalent noise level of a jet engine. Ongoing development to their software by doctoral candidate, Joachim Gossman, may motivate a redesign of hospital environments, testing virtual sound-scenes using building materials that strategically absorb sound, for example.
A portable, dry electrode electroencephalography (EEG) system, designed by Gert Cauwenberghs, professor of Bioengineering and Biology, along with his students Michael Chi and Cory Stevenson, will capture a user’s brainwaves as they interact with the computer model.
The EEG system consists of a cap worn on the head with from 8 to 32 electrical channels feeding into a small amplifier/transmitter device that fits in a pocket and communicates the data stream to a computer outside of the CAVE using wireless transmission, which allows the user complete freedom of movement inside the StarCAVE – and, ultimately, outside in real-world built settings.
The researchers can also integrate information about where the user is looking using 3D electrooculography (EOG). EOG is the measurement of the electrical activity of the retina and the muscles that control eye movements. Users in the StarCAVE environment can don a mask with sensors on the top, bottom, left and right side of each eye to determine the direction of gaze. By incorporating signals from both eyes, the team is developing the means to measures the depth of gaze, allowing researchers to track the eyes in three dimensions for the first time.