Virtual reality with no finger tracking changes your brain: the importance of individual finger tracking

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In the study, researchers glued together the index and middle fingers of participants for 24 hours. Participants had their brains scanned after this period. The scans revealed that the representation of the hand in the brain had changed significantly after this brief period of living with altered hands. Participants were then tested with tasks designed to measure whether their abilities with the glued fingers. Results from these tests found that fingers were less sensitive and reacted slower after only 24 hours of having an unnatural ability to use their hands.

We do not yet fully understand the effects of long-term VR use on the brain. However, this study shows the importance of having accurate hand representation in VR. Similar to the study, VR currently does not give users the ability to move their fingers naturally and independently. This unnatural representation of the fingers could lead to changes in the brain after long periods in VR like in this study.

The ability to produce natural finger movements is one aspect of touch in VR, the other is the ability to feel texture. Though we are rarely aware of it, we are constantly sensing texture with our fingers. It is important to consider natural hand representation and texture, two aspects of natural touch, when designing VR systems that may be used for long periods of time. Being immersed in a virtual environment with an unnatural representation of the hands very likely leads to changes to the brain. Due to the early stage of VR, we are only now starting to understand how these changes can have repercussions on our ability to use our bodies in the real world.

As we discover more on living in a virtual world, it is important to emulate our body as faithfully as possible to prevent any unintended consequences. Tactai offers the solution to the problem of touch and the fingers in VR. With our haptic wearables, the hand can be faithfully represented in VR. Texture too can be accurately simulate using our Dynamic Tactile Wave technology. Experience touching virtual experiences. Sign up for the development kit now!

Additional Info

  • About the author: Simon leads user experience development at Tactai. He has a PhD in multisensory perception and loves sharing his passion for both science and the potential of VR to anyone who will listen. Drop him a line on Twitter at @rhymeswithsimon