What is SVG, the technique used in this virtual reality car driving simulator?

A YouTuber recently presented a device of his own creation, for use in virtual reality. It is a cheap driving simulator that can disturb the user’s sense of balance, using electrodes.

Mini discharges behind the ears

In terms of virtual reality, the range of accessories tends to multiply for some time. In addition to VR headsets, we now have motion simulators, ‘cyber shoes’ and even haptic gloves. As explained Gizmodo in an article dated May 17, 2021, youtuber Gene Hacks found a car driving simulator in virtual reality for less than $50.

Usually driving simulators require very expensive and bulky equipment. Gene Hacks’ device therefore has the advantage of being economical and reasonable in size. The most important feature, however, is the ability to disturb the sense of balance of the user. This can be done by means of electrodes that generate mini-electric discharges behind the ears.

This device uses the process of galvanic vestibular stimulation (SVG). This name was inspired by Luigi Galvani, an 18th-century Italian physician who discovered the effect of electricity in muscles. Also remember that the inner ear is responsible for our sense of balance. So when the latter lacks coordination with the eyes’ perception, the result is none other than the famous motion sickness.

simulation svg virtual reality
Credit: Capturing YouTube/Mean Gene Hacks

A technology in development

The SVG sends specific electrical signals to: stimulate the vestibular system of the inner ear. The target? Induce virtual movements in 3 dimensions: rotations, lateral and forward-backward movements. In a study published by the journal Scientific Reports in 2015, Japanese researchers claimed to have caused a body swing in volunteers by using four electrodes on the templesto simulate a trip on a winding road.

For the time being, the SVG is not yet fully developed as driving is still very difficult. Nevertheless, Gene Hacks managed to create the user feel an attraction left or right. He therefore reproduced the sensations associated with the forces to which cars are subjected in reality.

If SVG were to logically go further, there are already potential applications in the pipeline. This technique is currently being tested to reduce the dependency phenomenon or to train drone pilots. However, SVG also has a appetite suppressant effect and may be subject to distasteful use in the wrong hands.