Device of the Week 3 | Metaphorical/Senses | VR Headsets


For the last Device of the Week, I have selected Virtual Reality Headsets as my focus of discussion. Despite being highly well-known and widely used worldwide, it is actually more fascinating than the credits we give it for. A normal non-tech savvy user would see it as a game device that allows you to play a game in a more entertaining point of view.


Image result for how does a VR headset work?

That is not wrong, per say. However, what is truly more fascinating about this device is that it blurs our 5 senses, and forces us to plunge into a reality that is beyond our imagination. It creates a new world perspective for us, and gives us another life to live in BY concealing our actual senses and enforcing new senses upon us based on how the code is structured. Whether there is a dragon roaring and charging at you from your right, or a waterfall gushing endlessly on your left, we are now indulged in this false perception of reality, leaving behind our actual senses.

Image result for how does a VR headset work?

VR headsets are essentially head-mounted devices, acting like a sort of goggle or helmet, which provides the user a virtual reality experience. They are largely used with video games, but are often also used in other fields such as simulators and trainers. An example is UnderArmour’s VR Running Simulation in promotion of their Hover Series Sporting Shoes, as shown below.

Image result for underarmour VR game

VR Headsets comprise a stereoscopic head-mounted display which provides separate images for each eye (but the wearer will experience it as one view), stereo sound and head motion tracking sensors. This can include gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers, eye-tracking sensors and structured light systems.

This means that when you are subconsciously looking through the corner of your eyes, it can even capture the same perspective for you as though you are looking at reality! When you are running physically, it can even mimic the movements, tremors and vibrations you are physically experiencing.

Related image

For a brief look at what a VR Headset comprises, we can take a look at the Oculus Rift VR Headset.

Image result for how does a VR headset work?

Adam Savage analyzing Oculus Rift:


What makes the VR Headset so ideal is also partly its technology for comfort. The headset is secure, which provides comfort for the user, as well as portability and comfort. You can look up, down, left and right with ease and without fear of your goggles falling off. Secure the headset tight enough, and you can even do a back-flip with no worries. The Eyesight correction lenses are also a major thumbs up, as it helps you to balance the vision for both your eyes. Once done correctly, it prevents eye-strain.

The convenience factor is also boosted by how it is wire-free; there is no need to connect the headset to anything to operate it, as it operates via Bluetooth settings.

For various brands of VR Headsets, you can even use your own smartphone as the ‘screen’ for your headset. In other words, the device is not limited to just one headset, and are no longer mutually exclusive. Portability is further enhanced, and devices become more transferable.

I guess the most attractive thing about the headset is about how real it can get. The sensitivity of the eye-tracking software helps you immerse yourself further in the second life, and it provides a reprieve away from the harsh realities we face on a daily basis. In a sense, it is also a mental break for your mind and body, and can serve to recuperate.

At the same time, the headset can also be used for simulation purposes which saves time and resources. Each person can commit to their own training at their own time and pace, within their exclusive little world through their senses, confined in a headset.


However, despite how amazing this initial-kick-starter project has become, it has its limitations and constraints as well.

Firstly, a lack of accurate calibration of eye correction from sudden eye movements and change in focus can lead to motion sickness, or virtual reality sickness. VR Headsets also have higher requirements for latency, which is the time it takes to change the input of the system to have a visual effect, as compared to ordinary video games. If the system lags or spikes, it will cause a lack of coordination experienced by the user’s 5 senses, which can also cause the said motion sickness.

The Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) also needs to be very powerful to render the required amount of frames needed to run the VR simulation smoothly and in imitation of real life timing and precision. This can take a toll on battery life; it is 2.5 hours to 3 hours, opposed to normal video games on normal consoles at 4-8 hours per charge.

Lastly, completely immersing yourself in the device will disallow you to spend time with your family and friends offline. Traditional video games allow other people to watch you play and you can then have fun talking, laughing and discussing the game as you play along. However, playing through the VR headset takes away that bonding experience in exchange for the immersive experience in the game world.


Suggestion for alternate use of the Device and/or modification that would generate a new application, a new artwork, a new design, etc. for the Device:

The VR Headset has been used for many purposes, such as military training, medical training and sports simulation on top of video gaming. More and more tech companies are coming up with different series of VR Headsets, and it is getting increasingly advanced and tech-savvy. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, in fact I think that it is quite amazing how companies are churning out these futuristic inventions.

However, I think that there is a fine line between these headsets aiding our life functions and learning, and whether we are over-relying on this technology. Simply said, if we do not end up like the chubby lazy people in Wall-E, then we will be fine.

Image result for wall-e fat people

An improvement, or rather, a futuristic idea for the design of the VR headset, in my opinion, is something that has actually been created.

Image result for sword art online gif headset

That’s right; it’s the anime Sword Art Online’s VR Headset; NerveGear and AmuSphere. The anime came out at around the same time as the announcement of the first Oculus Rift VR Headset, which makes it understandable that the concept in the anime still utilizes wiring into the wall (probably for charging purposes).

Image result for nervegear


Related image


The story of the anime is mainstream; boy goes into MMORPG world, gets stuck there with everyone else because of someone’s weird fantasy fetish to create a virtual world where they are God, boy gets powerful, boy fights a lot, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they make more babies, ignore that last part it didn’t happen…

Related image

Ok that’s not the point. The reason why I brought up SAO’s NerveGear/AmuSphere is because the concept behind it is a much more powerful sensory device for the user. It supposedly recreates even your sense of smell and pain based on an adjustable setting in the game up to a player’s personal preferences, and it also allows players to customize their voice and appearance in the game.

Such personalized details might seem trivial to game or simulation developers, but it goes a long way in creating an even more immersive experience for the user. Furthermore, it would be an amazing sight to behold when lenses and systems can finally recreate a “second skin” for the player, where the player can truly feel that they are in the second life and not just playing the role of a pre-made avatar. If future VR Headsets can take this virtual reality to the next level, I am sure everything will become even more interesting. I would probably quit school and work full time through the headset.


Device of the Week 2 | IoT | Smart Speakers


Device Chosen:

Smart Speakers

“Controlling your smart home with your voice”

Description of the Device:

Image result for smart speakers

Smart Speakers are wireless speakers equipped with a voice command device, further integrated with a virtual assistant.

As a smart device, it utilizes WiFi, Bluetooth and other wireless protocol standards for Hands Free Activation.

One thing Smart Speakers are commonly used for are to control home automation devices to enable smart homes. They control lighting, climate, entertainment systems and appliances and take care of home security, access controls and alarm systems.

All these can be controlled via just voice command alone via the in-built microphones in the speakers, rendering efficient functioning of the household.


Well-known examples with Virtual Assistants equipped: 

  • Amazon Echo Series (Amazon Alexa)

Related image

  • Apple HomePod (Siri)

Related image

  • Google Home (Google Assistant)

Image result for google home

  • INVOKE (Microsoft Cortana)

Image result for invoke microsoft

Pros and Cons of the Device:


Image result for freedom meme nicolas cage

  • Convenience through automation- things can still get done even with your hands filled.
  • Increase in autonomy, making spaces and activities accessible and convenient for people of all abilities.
  • Flexibility of Controls – With simply voice command there seems to be endless things you can instruct Smart Speakers to do, from screening YouTube videos to making reservations at restaurants.
  • Gives you more free time, as you can save more time from doing ‘menial chores’.


Image result for thief meme

  • Security and Privacy Risks with always-switched-on microphone; cannot avoid data collection, storage and sorting. Personal data is put under surveillance of the owner company producing said device.
  • False Positives – Private information captured by Smart Speakers may be unintentionally shared with other people due to misinterpretation of voice command. Unprompted and unauthorized actions may also be made through this misinterpretation of command.
  • Target for Hackers with wealth of information stored in smart speakers.
  • Signal Strength- if you are without a good WiFi or Bluetooth connection, the device will cease to function properly.

Suggestion for alternate use of the Device and/or modification that would generate a new application, a new artwork, a new design, etc. for the Device:

Image result for futuristic glasses

I think a new design for the device can potentially be a microchip sized smart speaker. Imagine those futuristic shows where your sunglasses can screen data and voice command virtual assistants? If these speakers could be wired in such a way it becomes so compact that it can fit on a wearable, it could be a good addition to a non-invasive device that still translates information and feedback to and fro.

For the visually challenged, it can serve as both a fashion statement and as a visual aid should the design be sleek af.

navigation glasses, blind, Xu Guang suo, futuristic devices, smart gadgets

It is similar to Google’s Futuristic Glasses sold at USD$1,500, except that this can be activated via voice command and can probably do a whole lot more stuff. I don’t think Google’s Glasses can turn music on or turn the lights on in another bedroom three floors up.

Related image

Google’s Futuristic Glasses

One can read the news just by putting on their sunglasses and inputting a command. One can screenshot a news article or take a photo just from blinking their eyes through cornea recognition. The possibilities are endless. It can even be embedded in a wrist watch or become a bio-tech beneath the first layer of skin (but that may be taking things a littttle too far).

Image result for iron man vision

Lookat me it’same Iron Man from Age of Ultron

You may get to feel like Iron Man though.

Device of the Week 1 | Health Devices | Muse Brain Sensing Headband


Device Chosen:

Muse Brain Sensing Headband by Gaiam Corporation

Description of the Device:

The Muse Brain Sensing Headband produced by Gaiam Corporation is a headband utilized for meditation purposes. It makes use of electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to analyze the brain activity.

EEG in general is widely used by neuroscience researchers worldwide. It makes use of advanced signal processing to interpret one’s mental activity which can help to guide control over it. It is often used in hospitals and research institutions to study the brain.

Muse utilizes 7 EEG sensors; 2 on the forehead, 2 behind the ears, and 3 reference sensors. During meditation, brain activity will be monitored and this information is then transmitted to the computer, smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The report can then be viewed right after each brain analysis session, showing the brain data. This real-time feedback tells you what is happening in your brain and guides you in achieving peace and calm.

In a way, not only can meditation be more effective with Muse’s guidance, it can also allow one to learn more about their body. Muse also provides guides about sleep, performance, stress reduction and more. Motivational challenges and rewards are also offered to encourage meditation as part of daily routine.

Furthermore, Muse 2, the second version of the first headband, added Photoplethysmography (PPG) and Pulse Oximetry breath and heart sensors on the front, right-hand side of the forehead. PPG is an optical technique that measures blood volume variations. Pulse Oximetry calculates the arterial oxygen saturation in a non-invasive manner. Furthermore, gyroscope (determines orientation) and accelerometer (used to measure non-gravitational acceleration) body sensors can be found behind the ear. The increase in balancing the body and blood flow helps to calm the body easier. On top of that, there is no electrical stimulation.

Muse can detect a range of brain electrical activity and transforms this information into easily understandable experiences for the common masses. Raw brain signals are transformed into many different components such as noise, oscillations, non-periodic characteristics and transient and event-related brain events.

Signal-processing and machine learning techniques are also applied to the brain signal components to control the experience in real time, encouraging more effective feedback for the person meditating.

Convenience of information is also taken into account for with Muse. with MuseDirect available on iOS, it can help to record, visualize and stream EEG and movement sensor data from Muse. This information is retrieved from the raw data and band powers to head movement and rotation. It can be used for neurofeedback, research, art installations, and even education purposes.

Pros & Cons of the Device (Analysis): 


  • You can know whenever your mind becomes distracted during a meditation session — Can consciously try to bring your mind back to its calm state from any emergence of unnecessary distraction and improve understanding about your state of mind
  • Impressive Build Quality- Bluetooth, handy, and information can be transmitted over various devices
  • Portable, lightweight and very small
  • Affordable for its function (for a health device that can benefit medically)
  • Not electrically stimulating


  • Feedback from veteran meditating users says that the device cannot really distinguish well between a calm mental state and an active mental state
  • Bluetooth connectivity not perfect- connected through wireless to your smartphone.
  • Battery life is not impressive
  • Expensive (high-end headphones price range of $300-ish)
  • Cannot be compared to professional EEG devices (such as hospital ones which cost $10K)

Suggestion for alternate use of the Device and/or modification that would generate a new application, a new artwork, a new design, etc. for the Device: 

An alternate use of the device would be for First Aid and home-medication for people with anxiety issues aka psychological aid.

Anxiety problems is one of the major health concerns that does not always have a medicine. Brainlessly chugging on Xanax is not always going to help especially when the body is starting to be immune to long intakes of such medication.

Having a sister who once had a sort of Autoimmune disease which attacked her brain (anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis), it was very difficult to find a way to calm her down during her panic attacks and anxiety syndromes during her recovery phase as her brain receptors had gone wonky. Even if they try to tell themselves not to worry about practically nothing, and to try their best to “calm down”, it almost never really works because the body is not listening to the brain. The whole experience from three years back taught me that Anxiety Issues are a whole new level from physical ailments because it is a mental disturbance, and no one can physically invade the mental and emotional realm if the affected person is not even able to listen and digest anything outside of their own world. It is scary, and having a solution for that would be ideal because it is never easy to find a “solution” to calm someone with anxiety down.

With an upgraded and medically enhanced version of Muse, I believe that it can become a medical aid towards people facing similar issues because Muse can accurately decipher the actual brain state of the patient and pinpoint the issue before giving the right solutions to the patient. This can definitely ease the burden of self-hate from the patient, and also ease the workload of family members and friends who has to take care of these patients.

Another design to upgrade Muse could potentially be an arm-chair version of the device. While massaging armchairs are meant to help the body relax, this experience could be further enhanced if accurate data about how to relax the body is applied to various other parts of the body. While it is obvious that your legs and hands cannot listen to the vocal feedback, Muse Armchair can be modified such that the massage chair applies the right massaging techniques for relaxation right after receiving the real-time feedback from Muse’s physical body analysis.