VRTIGO lets you test your nerves in virtual reality


EPFL researchers have developed a virtual reality program that looks at how users – equipped with headphones and sensors – react to a dizzying ride. The system will be presented at the Geneva International Film Festival from 5 to 10 November. Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Why do some people react more strongly than others when confronted with the unknown? Researchers at the Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics at EPFL, led by Professor Carmen Sandi, decided to learn more with a new virtual reality program. Your system assesses how personality traits and previous user experience influence your responses to anxiety situations. Designed to be tested on a large sample of volunteers, it will be available for visitors to experience during the Geneva International Film Festival from November 5-10, where it will be featured in the Out-of-Competition Digital category.

Scary but fun

Developers want to keep the surprise a secret, but the name of the program – VRTIGO – gives an idea of ​​what users can expect. Volunteers will be invited to use an immersive headset and will be taken to a sectioned area where the experiment will be conducted. The program will transport you to a virtual world that looks surprisingly realistic.

"Even if users consciously know that it is a virtual experience, the perception they receive from their senses tells them otherwise." And their bodies react accordingly – the palms of the hands begin to sweat and begin to walk very carefully, "says João Rodrigues and Erik Studer. researchers who developed the program. The virtual path to the unknown is perfectly safe and designed to be fun, but it is still limited to adults over the age of 18. "We have received excellent feedback from people who have tried it," adds Studer. "And if the experience starts to get too intense, users can just close their eyes or take off the headset, and their sensory perceptions will return to normal."

Crucial data for research

The VRTIGO experience, while entertaining, provides valuable data for scientists studying human anxiety. The data is completely anonymous; Volunteers are invited to fill out a short questionnaire about their background and emotional state. During the experiment, system sensors transmit information about users' physiological responses, while accelerometers track body positions, movements, and directions they are looking at. Samples are also taken from the saliva of the users to determine their cortisol levels – an indicator of how much stress they feel.

"These tests conducted among the general public give us data from people of different ages and backgrounds, and help advance our research on this subject," says Studer. The research team hopes to publish its findings in 2019.

Explore more:
The virtual reality & quot; out-of-body experience & quot; reduces fear of death in volunteers

More information:
For more information, see 2018.giff.ch/en/events/vrtigo-en/

Provided by:
École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne


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