With its latest innovation, the Swiss-founded technology firm MindMaze hopes to bring a gentler and more emotive touch to virtual reality as we know it, all thanks to some surprisingly soft hardware.
Launched today, MASK is a foam-based insert that allows VR headset users to show emotion by reproducing their facial expressions through virtual avatars, and in real time (or technically, MindMaze says, slightly ahead of it). According to the company, the product is the first to employ biosignalling methods for translating human facial expressions, rather than the face-facing camera setups explored by Google and others.
Representing a combination of hardware and software, the system uses foam electrodes set into a foam base to measure electrical impulses in the skin which creating and, for MASK’s purposes, help identify our facial expressions. By detecting those impulses while they’re delivering messages to our muscles, the system is also reportedly able to mimic users’ expressions on their in-game avatars before they’ve actually formed that smile or frown in real life.

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