In our experiment, the two people are focused on completing a task. One person is wearing an Oculus Rift, a Head-Mounted Virtual Reality (VR) device, while the other is using an EMOTIV Epoc (EEG) brain sensor. In utilizing high-end gaming equipment and hacking them a little bit our goal is to create a digital environment where our basic social emotions such as sympathy, trust and reliability are shown in a new context. They don’t know it, but the task cannot be completed without the two people cooperating and trusting each other. Traditional ways of communication are cut off, they need to find their own way around it, or make up their new communication system.
The task is relatively simple: there is a giant virtual rock floating right above the VR user’s head which is mirroring the moment-to-moment mental state of the EEG user. Between the two users communication is limited. The VR user, in order to avoid getting smashed by the rock, needs to somehow influence the EEG user.
If the EEG user is put into a good, relaxed or joyful mood the rock evaporates into a shiny soap bubble. On the other hand, if the EEG user gets frustrated or seriously angry the rock comes down on the VR user and ends the game. So the task is to save the person wearing the VR from getting smashed by a huge virtual rock.
Communication is intentionally twisted: through a microphone, the EEG user will hear whatever sound the VR user makes. The EEG user cannot ask or answer any question, his only task is to sit comfortably, eyes-closed with the brain sensor on, and listen closely on what he or she says. The only sense of feedback coming from the EEG user is the background ambient noise that changes according to the most dominant state of mind such as frustration or engagement. The brain sensor will also pick up a variety of facial expressions like smile, frown, raised eyebrows, etc.
Can the person with the EEG sensor control her brain consciously to save the other person from the virtual levitating mass? Can the VR user successfully control the other person’s mind with her voice? Can they trust each other in this digital realm?