STRATA is a new virtual reality experiment from The Mill that taps into biometric data—heart rate, breathing etc.—and produces beautiful procedurally generated worlds to match.
No Man’s Sky is the latest and possibly the most high profile example of procedurally generated virtual environments, where in theory no world you ever visit is the same as the last, based on a series of algorithms and systems defined by the programmers. But what if virtual worlds were generated from and tailored to you as a person?
Developers The Mill have come up with just such a prospect with their latest VR project called STRATA. According to press info released by The Mill, STRATA “responds to your physiological and neurological data to generate procedural audio and visuals”, the upshot is a virtual experience that’s potentially unique to anyone stepping into it. The experience gathers biometric from the user via a series of biometric sensors are placed on viewers equipped with VR headsets. “These sensors measure EEG (brainwaves), GSR (stress levels), heart rate, and breathing (via a conductive band created by The Mill),” the press release states, “This data feeds to an app running on the HMD that generates visuals and audio.” A special lap mounted “pillow” collects GSR and heart rate and transmits the data wirelessly to the app too.
As you can see from the trailer embedded above, the results are a meditative dreamscape in which aspects of both the environment and the sound field alter dependent on the players physical and mental state.
This is all very interesting of course, but what are the practical uses for the technology? The Mill say that STRATA represents “a radical imagining for new VR applications, biometrics as a control scheme, and a step forward in responsive immersive visuals,” and cite potential applications beyond the entertainment sphere as mental fitness training in Sports & Athletics, distraction therapy for patients undergoing “unpleasant” medical procedures and “Mindfulness training for stress alleviation” in meditation, anger management etc.
This is all theoretical of course, but we’ve already seen studies which suggest immersive media can be beneficial to physiological treatment, for example veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. In any case, it’s an interesting area of research and The Mill have certainly gone all out to construct the hardware and software stack needed to demonstrate it. It’ll be interesting if the work seen in STRATA manages to break out of the experimental sphere into the real world in the near future.