Smartphone apps have distilled the dating experience into a hollow, thumb-swiping game of probabilities. But what if Tinder knew which way you were going to swipe before you did it? And it's all happening because there's a VR headset on your face reading your mind?
That's what I got to find out during the latest showcase of startups in HTC's Vive X accelerator program. Among the 25 new companies was Looxid Labs, which has a technology for reading your emotions using a combination of eye tracking and brain wave-detection. Looxid has made a mobile VR headset with all this built in, but it's also created attachments that can slot onto the HTC Vive - a crowd of EEG sensors for the forehead, and eye trackers under the lenses - which deliver the same experience.
Read this: The standalone VR headsets are coming
I was eager to try it for myself, so I strapped on one of the custom Vives, and - after a short calibration to make sure it was following my eyes accurately - I was presented with a series of photos. I was told to swipe left (for no) or right (for yes) depending on whether I thought they were "objectively attractive". Which is worse than Tinder, because I can't hide behind the veneer of personal preference as the rejection pile steadily grows.
As I made my selections, the headset read my brain waves to try and work out what types of faces I find attractive. In the second phase I was given a whole new selection of people, but with each swipe it told me whether it had correctly predicted which way I'd swipe with a percentage. It got it right every time, and the margin of error got smaller the more I swiped. I'd been busted. I was then show a readout of my brain activity, a guilty look inside my thought process. It was kind of weird.
But really this was just a simple demo to demonstrate a technology with much greater potential than knowing who you have the hots for. We've waxed lyrical about eye tracking plenty here on Wareable, but mind-reading VR is a whole other level of immersion. Just think of the uses in therapy, job training, gaming; it feels like there's endless potential for this technology, whether it comes from Looxid or someone else.
The company plans to start shipping developer kits this summer for $3000, and even with the 20% discount it's currently offering it's still a pricey ask. Chances are we won't see this tech built into mainstream headsets for some time, but I can't wait until we do.
And let me tell you, there's no faster way to feeling like human garbage than doing the Tinder shuffle in front of a bunch of strangers.
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