Boston-based SyncThink has received their tenth patent in the US, if it holds up to legal challenges from other VR companies exploring similar advances. The patent is related to tracking eye movements in virtual reality headsets, an application which they’ve already put to good medical use and which has the potential to open up many new possibilities in VR technology.
Earlier this year SyncThink, founded by Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, MD, PhD, FACS, and President of the Brain Trauma Foundation, gained FDA approval for their EYE-SYNC device. EYE-SYNC is a neuro-technology device which tracks eye movements is order to determine if a sports player has developed a concussion during or after a game.
The device tracks the eyes for abnormal movement, which is a hallmark of concussions, and according to the company can return a diagnosis in sixty seconds, and is accurate and reliable. Stanford University’s Sports Medicine program is already using EYE-SYNC to screen athletes during games and determine whether they can return to play, and they believe it could become the diagnostic gold standard for sports-related concussions with every team and organization from high school through the professional level.
While sports and military injuries are the primary focus right now, the implications of the eye tracking software could extend much further into other areas. It basically registers a user’s level of attention and can determine if fatigue or distraction is affecting them in addition to possible brain trauma such as from a concussion. This could allow companies to have their content interact with people based on their current level of attention. In essence, it would let them read your mind to see how receptive you are at any given moment to what they wish to present to you.
There are lots of companies working on VR technologies right now, and that includes others investigating eye-tracking software for VR applications, such as Facebook (Oculus) and Eyefluence. Whether SyncThink’s patent will hold up once these other companies challenge it (and they will) remains to be seen.a
The company has partnered with the Brain Trauma Foundation and studied over 10,000 individuals under clinical conditions to create an ocular-motor normative database, against which the EYE-SYNC device can compare its results when analyzing someone’s condition. The partnership has also released more than 20 peer-reviewed research articles which explore and describe the impact if concussion on visual attention.
Can the technology actually read your mind? That’s a loaded question. It can’t guess your favorite color or what number between 1 and 100 you’re thinking about. But it can read cognitive function through eye movement, so if you really wanted to get technical the answer would be yes. More often than not we tend to associate virtual reality with games, travel, and education primarily, but SyncThink gives VR enthusiasts a new paradigm for the possibilities inherent in the technology — specifically, medical possibilities. So if you want to get in the VR game but aren’t too excited about gaming, SyncThink could be a great place to send your resume.