The cure for cyber sickness is in the eyes
As apps and devices that enable more realistic virtual and augmented reality roll out — with 2023 being widely forecast as the year Apple releases its rumored game-changing goggles — there’s an elephant in the room that could hamper the segment’s growth .
Between 38% and 66% of virtual and augmented reality users will experience dizziness, nausea and headaches when connected to their devices. It’s especially pronounced during games, but can also show up in the middle of a video chat. Stress, online bullying, FOMO, and isolation can also contribute to this phenomenon.
Cybersickness is similar to seasickness in that your eyes, ears, and other senses are out of sync. For example, on a boat, your eyes see movement, but your ears don’t understand the message. The same discomfort can occur in Goggle-enabled “augmented reality” — especially when the visuals are out of sync with the audio, or when there’s colorful, fast-moving video.
It turns out that you can train your brain to overcome cybersickness by gradually exposing yourself to nauseous environments. The key is to have a system that monitors how you’re feeling and gives real-time instructions on when to disconnect and when to move on.
This is what the Israeli startup Eye-Minders developed.
The company’s algorithms — embedded in a video game app, a headset, or both — track subtle eye movements to determine how you’re feeling and aim to ward off cybersickness before you even know it’s coming.
The Eye Minders system says, “Hey, I see you’ve done enough today. Why don’t you take a break and we’ll continue tomorrow?” It can also slow things down – because generally, watching something calm relieves cybersickness.
“The content, the hardware, the software and the person – they all influence cyber sickness,” Daphna Palti-Wasserman, CEO of Eye-Minders, told ISRAEL21c. “That’s why you have to do the training at your own pace, as it can vary from person to person.”
Eye-Minders introduced its line of anti-cybersickness products at the recent CES show in Las Vegas.
Eye-Minders booth at CES Las Vegas, January 2023. Photo courtesy of Eye-Minders
However, the company began focusing on monitoring a person’s eyes to see if they were lying in 2018.
“We can set it up at an airport to do a quick, unbiased and non-intrusive test. Lie detectors are uncomfortable and usually last a few hours. You have to sit with an examiner who will ask you all sorts of personal questions. Also, it’s very subjective. Maybe the examiner doesn’t like bald people. Maybe he or she is in a bad mood,” says Palti-Wasserman.
Eye-Minders launched its first truth-telling product – Aletheia, named after the Greek goddess of truth-finding – in 2022, powered by proprietary algorithms that calculate a comprehensive risk score and credibility score based on eye analysis. The results can be used for insider threat detection and prevention, public safety, safe cities, fintech, insurance tech and more.
Aletheia starts with a standard questionnaire (as opposed to a polygraph, where the questions are personalized) asking, for example, whether your passport is genuine or fake.
“We don’t have to find any inconsistencies in your story, as we do with surveys and investigations by experts,” says the managing director. “We just very accurately measure your cognitive and emotional load in response to a specific question. It’s very precise, narrow and accurate.”
Eye-Minders already has paying clients in the lie detection space. Airports can use the system to determine if someone is posing a security threat or trying to smuggle drugs. Cybersecurity companies can use the technology to comply with regulations. Companies can test candidates before making a final hiring decision.
The wellness focus is just getting started, but it could at least make a big splash in the eyes of consumers.
see the soul
Palti-Wasserman has been fascinated by sight since her grandmother told her, “You can see a person’s soul through their eyes.”
She holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from the Technion. So it’s not surprising that her background has fueled her entrepreneurial side.
Daphna Palti-Wasserman, Founder and CEO of Eye-Minders. Photo courtesy of Eye-Minders
“As I started doing some research and development, I discovered more and more layers of information in the eyes. I decided to continue in that direction and see what we could do,” she says.
Using the cameras in existing AR and VR glasses that capture video images of a user’s face, Eye-Minders’ algorithms will process images to identify the eyes and pupils and extract physiological signals: Are the user’s eyes moving towards them and here? How fast does the pupil dilate?
“Not everyone has the same pupil size,” notes Palti-Wasserman. “That’s why our system works so well; We look at the changes, not the absolute values.”
Eye-Minders use the collected responses to teach the algorithms to improve. “We do a lot of smart calibrations for each person because we’re all very different.”
The Eye Minders system is compact – it’s basically a laptop and camera on a table. It could also be placed in a public kiosk with a camera and screen.
Photo courtesy of Eye-Minders
As a classic software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, however, it must first find its way into the closed systems of the manufacturers.
Although Apple is known to keep third-party developers off its proprietary hardware,
Palti-Wasserman is confident that the talks with Apple, if they take place, will bear fruit. She hopes to have the first Eye-Minders products embedded in software and hardware by the end of 2023.
“We also want to work with the developers of applications – the games, the displays – and not just the headset manufacturers. There are many interested parties.”
For example, a game developer could code the app to slow down the action when Eye-Minders detects an oncoming nausea.
When it takes off, Eye-Minders’ technology will not only reduce cybersickness, but could also adjust gameplay based on user’s emotions.
Eye-Minders is based in Haifa and employs 14 people. The company reportedly raised $2.4 million, although Palti-Wasserman would not confirm that number.
The company isn’t without competition, but Palti-Wasserman says “most of these companies are working on eye tracking, in the sense of looking where you’re looking,” and there are no other applications that track the dynamic changes in the eye.
“We didn’t want to waste time on something that already exists,” she says.
Click here to learn more about Eye-Minder.
Click here or here to learn more about cyber sickness.