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Full Dive Virtual Reality – Coming Soon to a Brain Near You

Immersive virtual reality has barely cleared the launch pad, but a new technology promises to redefine the VR experience. It’s called full dive virtual reality (FDVR) and it is straight out of science fiction — literally. Full dive virtual reality technology pushes VR beyond immersive headsets and makes the user one with the machine through the use of a Brain Computer Interface, or BCI. You read that right. The age of the cyborg is upon us… almost.

Yes, advances are being made across a wide range of technologies that will allow users to control computers with mere thought, and to receive data from the computer directly into the brain. A true full immersion virtual reality experience is the new holy grail. But is full dive virtual reality possible now, or shall we check back in a few decades? More to the point for gamers, if full dive virtual reality is soon to transition from science fiction to the inferior world known as reality, when will full dive virtual reality gaming become more than a distance dream?

Before we explore those questions, let’s step back into sci-fi and remind ourselves exactly what we hope FDVR will do for us.

Origins of Full Dive Virtual Reality

The term originated from a Japanese light novel anime series, Sword Art Online, written by Reki Kawahara in 2009. In the series, a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online, or SAO, is released in the year 2022. 10,000 players don their “NerveGear” BMI helmets and begin to play.

Players soon realize that the game developer has locked them into the game and that any attempt to logout or end the game will be fatal to their real-life bodies. The only way to exit the game, and to survive, is to successfully reach the 100th floor of the castle and defeat the final foe.

Not exactly the pitch you want to give investors, to be sure, but there are some good things there we can take away. First, the story popularized the concept of VRMMORPG. Gamers who weren’t thinking of engaging untold minions in gameplay suddenly started dreaming. Second, the concept of a helmet creating a non-invasive neural interface between man and machine whetted the appetite for those wanting a more seamless way to interact with computers. Not that the idea of BMIs was new, but seeing the concept demonstrated in such a rich storyline made the idea all the more tempting.

Examples of Full Dive Virtual Reality in Use

Back in the real world, real and exciting things are happening. Full dive virtual reality technology is rapidly stepping off the pages of science fiction and into the lab.

Humble Beginnings

Recent advances in technology can sometimes be appreciated more when contrasted with earlier successes and failures.

In 2013, Harvard University broke ground for FDVR advances by conducting a human- brain-to-mouse-brain experiment. In this experiment, researchers used an electroencephalogram (EEG) brain-brain-interface (BBI) to detect the thought patterns of a researcher. By focusing his thoughts, the researcher was able to control the movement of a rat’s tail. Not exactly the kind of action most serious gamers are looking for, but it marked an important turning point in BBI technology. For the first time, two brains communicated directly through a hardware interface.

There were two reasons why this experiment was noteworthy. Not only did it demonstrate that human thought could be correctly interpreted by computer and used to control a rat’s brain, but the experiment was non-invasive for both the researcher and the rat. While researchers around the world have been able to control rats’ brains through the use of implanted electrodes, this rat suffered no such indignity. Non-surgical focused ultrasound (FUS) was used to impart the control signals to the rat’s brain, a technology we will elaborate on shortly.

The Paralyzed Walk

Fast-forward to 2015. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine also used an  electroencephalogram machine to detect human thought. This time, however, those thoughts did not make it possible to control a rat’s tail, but to help a paraplegic man walk for the first time in five years. The man, who had suffered a spinal cord injury, walked nearly four meters with the assistance of the EEG device and advanced software.

The study involved placing electrodes on the patient’s head and on his legs. By detecting and interpreting signals from the man’s brain and sending those signals to his legs, the system bypassed the damaged spinal cord and allowed him to once again control the movement of his legs.

The experiment required the patient to undergo 19 weeks of training prior to taking his first step, but the encouraging results proved the concept was valid.

These two experiments may not be encouraging to those who had hoped for more, but consider this. Within two years, we have seen the technology advance from wiggling a rats tail to allowing a paralyzed person to actually walk across the floor. Such progress should be exciting, indeed, for anyone interested in full dive virtual reality development.

Technologies involved in Full Dive Virtual Reality

Full dive is a term that has been used by some game developers to imply that their games provide a more-immersive VR experience. By using advanced full-body motion sensors and high definition spacial audio, along with the VR headset, players do enjoy more immersive gameplay than ever before. But this is not true full dive.

Full dive, in the truest sense, goes beyond external viewers and sensors for user interaction and provides direct interaction between the user’s brain and the computer. Full dive is not so much full body immersion as it is full mind immersion.

Physical connections to the brain are not necessarily required, but there must be interpretation of the user’s thoughts by the computer, and — more importantly — the computer must be able to send sensory data directly into the user’s central nervous system. Full dive is, essentially, the ultimate goal of brain-to-computer interface research.

BCIs have been around, in various experimental stages, for years. What makes FDVR a new concept is that it has the added component of virtual reality. Regardless of whatever advancements in BCIs may have been made until now, VR is a game changer (no pun intended).

Within the scope of what full dive is, or can become, is the question of just how much interaction between user and machine is possible. Two levels of interaction are theoretically achievable: Mobile and Immobile.

Mobile and Immobile Full Dive

Mobile full dive, as the name suggests, involves the user physically moving his or her body with their movements being detected by external sensors, not unlike current VR technology. For lack of refined methods of detecting and interpreting thoughts, physical action provides the most reliable means of providing data to the computer. In order for the experience to be FDVR, the sensory data returned by the computer must be fed directly into the user’s brain or central nervous system; otherwise, we just have a conventional VR experience.

Immobile full dive, on the other hand, means just what it says: the user is immobile and the FD experience is entirely cerebral. No physical movement is necessary, as the computer can translate the user’s thoughts with adequate precision to control the program. While conventional VR gear could still be used — and probably will be for the foreseeable future, full dive will ultimately involve bypassing the user’s five senses by sending sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations directly into the brain.

In theory, a full full-dive experience would disable the user’s external sensory awareness, replacing it with virtual awareness for the duration of the HDVR session. Likewise, the user would have no need to move their body, as their thoughts would control their virtual bodies within VR space. There is, admittedly, a creep factor to being so totally immersed that one’s own physical body becomes obsolete. Some might even question whether we really want to go there. But, of course, we will.

Have a AR/VR Project in Mind? We Are Here to Discuss


Government Help

Studies such as the Harvard experiment show exciting progress, there must be greater even advances in order for FD to become a reality. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) may provide a key component.

DARPA plans to spend $60 million (USD) over the next four years to develop a high-resolution, wide-bandwidth intracranial electrode array for recording and stimulating brain activity. The DARPA Stentrode (stent and electrode) has been successfully tested in sheep and is injected into a blood vessel where it records and stimulates neural activity. Experiments with humans began in 2017.

The minimally invasive device may be the closest thing we have, yet, to a brain modem. And while the ultimate goal is to enjoy a full dive experience without the need for implants of any sort, the lessons learned by the Stentrode will help us to get there.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

One secret to advancing any technology is to find what works and keep doing it. As we discussed, EEG systems were successful in the 2013 rat-tail experiment, and they were successful in the 2015 University of California at Irvine experiment where a paraplegic walked. As promising as the DARPA device may be, the non-invasive EEG holds, perhaps, greater promise for developers wishing to advance full dive technology.

EEG has already moved from the lab to commercial applications. One company, Emotive, has penetrated the market with 5-channel and 14-channel “neuroheadsets” and advanced EEG software. Emotive is developing applications for its products in the fields of “academic research, advertising and media, education and training, mobility, defense, communication, automotive and IoT (Internet of Things) development.”

Clearly, EEG is an excellent foundation upon which to advance full drive technology.

Focused Ultrasound (FUS)

In terms of brain interfaces, focused ultrasound is a means of stimulating targeted regions of the brain by bombarding them with ultrasonic energy of a particular frequency and pressure level. In the case of the rat tail experiment, the motor cortex of the rat’s brain was stimulated with 350 KHz from a transducer placed on the rat’s head.

While FUS is primarily a therapeutic tool used by healthcare professionals for treating certain health conditions, Harvard’s out-of-the-box thinking adapted it for their brain interface. This is exactly the kind of creativity that will lead innovators to push full dive closer to reality.

Full Dive Virtual Reality in Gaming

In the 2016 edition of this article, we stated, “To date, there are no TRUE full dive games…”  And to be honest, no commercial-grade FD game was even on the horizon, nor the headset to control such a game.

That has all changed.

At SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles, Neurable debued the VR game Awakening. The game storyline goes like this: you are a child who has telekinetic powers and you are being held prisoner in a government lab. Robot prison guards are present prevent you from escaping your cell. The object of the game is to use your telekinetic abilities to select objects in the lab and to hurl them at the robot guards, knocking them out of commission. Defeat enough guards and you are free to escape.

Oh, yeah. And you control the game with your thoughts.

By simply focusing on whatever object you wish to weaponize, you cause that object to be thrown at the guards. The debut version used a modified HTC Vive headset. An array of sensors detect brainwave activity on the surface of the player’s scalp

If battling foes using only the power of your mind is on your bucket list, you might not have long to wait. Neurable is aggressively working with content developers and VR partners to bring their technology to market.

But wait… it gets even better.

Neurable is working on an SDK for Unity, so developers can build their own mind-controlled games. How cool is that?

AppReal-VR: Your Full Dive Virtual Reality Development Partner

Full dive virtual reality development isn’t all fun and games. Success requires a solid foundation in the very latest virtual reality technology, and the ability to transform complex theories into workable solutions. Pioneers in full dive development must go beyond adopting the latest technology; they must be able to do real science.

AppReal is a virtual reality development company specializing in programming, VR production, mobile app development, and custom development of virtual reality solutions. We have the experience and technology needed to bring clarity and direction to your FDVR vision. Together, we can transform your ideas into reality. Why not call us today to arrange a free consultation?


89 responses to “Full Dive Virtual Reality – Coming Soon to a Brain Near You”

  1. Steven Elliman says:

    How far away is this from being realized? Is there a way i can help and be a part of making full dive into a reality?

  2. James Wilson says:

    Greetings I would love to sign up to test and even be linked into fulldive for as long as possible. I can’t wait for all of these to come.

  3. Kyton says:

    And some please make full dive vr Skyrim and Elder Schrolls Online because that would be the definition of ligitness!

    • David Hendry says:

      Oh yes. The usual Bethesda tropes going on… The same 7 voices repeating the same 20+ lines, engaging your attention by freezing you in position while you speak and making you invulnerable to all damage while doing so…
      On the lighter side, they can make it that any ranged damage taken to a lower-body appendage can count towards the end of your career as an intrepid explorer and require you to resort to the nearest town guard for the rest of your gaming career. 🙂

      … In short, you used to be an adventurer like me, then you took an arrow to the knee 😛

  4. Kyton says:

    Ps: I would love it as a Christmas present!
    To: readers~>

  5. Kyton says:

    I’ve always loved Sao to death and was making it a point to buy full five technology once released and now I read this article and these comments and my interest is at peak! Once I am informed of the exact price and process to purchase I will instantly follow through. I am still quite young and am sure I will see the time of full dive vrmmorpg technology, but would still like to play while in my teen years. I am only 14 years young (haha see what I did there lol I kill myself😂) and would like to play so much but patience is key. We are on the preverbial edge of a full dive tech break through! Please let me know when it will be released for purchase !

  6. Saraito says:

    well, considering the fact that computing power doubles every year, it is quite possible that Full Dive will come in just a few years.

  7. Daylin Reuber says:

    If the FullDive Net were to finally become active, I could finally be the person who I know I am.

  8. DubD says:

    Well this tech sounds amazing, we are still years if not decades from being able to transfer someone’s consciousness or cognitive abilities. You all reference SAO, and that for me would be the end game. This prob won’t happen in are life times. The ability to use a brain consciously or subconsciously to move things is not the same as installing it to a virtual world. Or is it downloading, anyway i would sign up to be a test pig if possible. But for now the next few years we have to be happy with cheap looking VR.

    • Sage says:

      If you had actually read the article you would have seen that within the timeframe of two years we went from moving animal tails to walking parapalegics. If that happens in TWO years I see full dive being a realistic product in 5-10 years at most

      • Onion says:

        it could come even faster due to technology advancing in general. We could have some ground breaking discovery and have it within the next 2-5 years. I doubt it would be 2 years but you get what im saying. all just speculation though. Lets hope it comes soon, because only crazy people would not want to play games like this.

  9. Marti says:

    I really really like the concept of full dive technology and hope it is achieved in the neat future. I also hope I’ll be able to achieve some things in that field. All in All I enjoyed this text and I think it helped me out and helped me widen my image of full dive technology.

  10. Josh says:

    When i watched SAO i knew that it wouldn’t be far until it we got it but never imagined that it was this close. its going to change everything and i give my hat off to you guys that put the time and effort into making it a reality and i know that you cant wait to share it to the world. being a beta tester for this must be awesome seeing it slowly coming together must be the best thing in the world. Cant wait for it to come out i am so going to get it as soon as it comes out no mater the cost.

  11. Christopher M. says:

    I am her to tell you that full dive VR is here. How do I know? Because I have found a way to actually make it heppen! There are still a few bugs to work out, like how to keep players from physically walking around and destroying the house, but the main controls and visual aspects of full dive are well within our capabilities. I cannot give high details on how it would work due to theft and other risks, but I can tell you it should happen within the next ten years if I can find someone to assist me in the final research/ production of the technology. After it is completed, it could even help with things such as medical treatment or even space exploration let alone the gaming aspect of it. So if you know anyone who might be interested in changing the future please let me know how to contact them. To sum it up, your dreams are about to become reality very soon. So keep your eyes peeled!

    • HalfNoble says:

      I’m very happy to hear that. Now you just need to get funds and your good to go! The best option would be to potent the project and all details in at least 3 different countries or getting an international potent with a license and stuff. Afterwards you turn towards the government and tell them the usual stuff they like to hear (that is if you actually think it will work) like military, medicine, etc. You ask them for assistance with people, funds and labaratories and if they take you seriously a lot of people would join you.

    • Jippyjippers says:

      Hmmm, interesting. I would like to know more of your venture. i might be able to help you.

    • Saraito says:

      Excuse me sir, but i would REALLY like to talk to you about this, if you’re for real, then i would like to help in any way i can. I promise, and believe me, a promise will ALWAYS be fulfilled.

  12. NotANoob says:

    if someone makes a legit SAO in roughly the same time around 2020 i will buy that and i would care if i had to kill the previous owner i would get that damn game and its system no matter what

    EDIT: in case you cant tell i am a person who LOVES SAO i want to be a kirito and have my own rejected girls club too…. (a little joke for those who watched all of SAO lol)

  13. Doug Fogg says:

    The VR idea I believe originally came from Star Trek as the 20 sq ft “Halo Deck”, the principal behind the room was used as training and rec. The science theory of the room was basically a very large and powerful EEG with visual and audio disrupters, though people are able to move in this room, for example they seem to walk/run back and forth in the room though in the system they are actually running forward the entire time. Though this version of Dive VR seems to be more of a military purpose of training squad coordination and in hand to hand and combat, while having people being able to evaluate the subjects

  14. Alan says:

    I like the reference to SAO personally, but to be honest, I and a lot of others would love full dive to be a reality. Though, after doing (too much?) research on the topic, I think we’ll start to see some incremental technologies start coming between now and then . Slowly replacing traditional controllers with neural feedback solutions and similar things will get consumers and industry to push the necessary technology forward. As the idea of neural feedback enters the mainstream (and not as just a novelty), I think these same technologies are going to start being adapted to more of a “full-dive” concept as they become more developed, and are fueled, not by research or small niche markets, but by the machine of consumerism.

    I say that because the evidence is there already. Look at companies like Thalmic Labs (www.thalmic.com), which is a pretty good start I’d say (granted, they use the technology for gesture recognition, not for anything particularly intuitive, but I digress). Or, take for example this very new startup I’m at right now is trying to bridge that gap between what we have now and full-dive VR (www.impulse-vr.com) by creating truly intuitive neural interfaces in a way that logically can lead to full-dive through expansion of the existing system. It’s innovations like these that will develop over time and logically lead to full-dive, but there will not be one day when somebody comes out to the world and announces, “I’ve done it, I’ve made full-dive VR!”

    That said, I do not think brain (EEG especially) solutions will be particularly well suited for this task in any near term (not to say it isn’t good for other tasks, but definitely not for deep immersion or muscle intention prediction), just because of the increased complexity. Why use a helmet type device to decipher one of the most complicated circuits ever conceived (the brain), when the alternative is detecting signals from muscles, say, at the spinal cord, which is a bunch of wires in effect (significantly simpler as a circuit).

    • Dakota Nugent says:

      I understand where your coming from but for more useful thing like true augmented realty we have to have made real progresses in full dive VR

  15. MoustafaKH says:

    This is an awesome article I would like to beta test it someday or could have it someday and I would like to help

    • Dakota Nugent says:

      I would love to beta test as well. I have beta tested some PC games but Full Dive, I would be soo happy I would probably spend all my free time in full dive instead of the real world

      • Ryan says:

        If I had a choice of choosing the real world or the virtual world, I would choose the virtual because it is a whole new world, there are no limits and the fear of death is nonexistent unless your in SAO but anyways, I never really liked the real world, I have always been interested in technology and the virtual world.

  16. Dylan Ryan says:

    So I had a thought(Its probably not right but anyway) since now we can charge a phone wirelessly by just having it touch a surface and having signals sent that charge it, couldn’t we as well have a part of a headset touch the head and transmit a signal that interrupts our brains signals and redirects them to the computer and in addition sends info back?

    • Daniel Primeau says:

      That’s actually a really good idea but to do that we would have to find a signal wavelength that can go through the skull and we would also have to find a way for the headset to clearly interpret the signals from the brain without any interference.

  17. Katie Gillespie says:

    i would kill for full dive VR technology! Can u imagine how awesome that would be? You could fully experience things that you would never be able to in the real world and still be safe at the same time. Admittedly, having your central nervous system manipulated and your real body being left behind is kinda scary but its so worth it!

  18. Nathaniel Favreau says:

    I think this is the next step for gaming and I can’t wait for it to come out but in summery you said that the system would send signals to our brain and receive signals? The brain would send signals when you try to move your arm or leg and depending on the signal length variety it would instead move your arm in the game or leg depending on what you are trying to do? I actually thought of the same thing before I knew about this full dive vr community. I have a few questions though.
    1.when does it come out
    2.could I beta test
    3.what could I do to help
    4.what stage are you at. are you developing the idea or researching it or making it or testing it or publishing it.
    Thank you and good luck

  19. jihan kim says:

    How can i join the appreal?

  20. Aaron Gerassy says:

    What a coincidence that they use Sword Art Online as an inspiration while I’m also watching the same anime and became extremely interested in full VR immersion as the they show in the anime. The fact is that when this technology is invented it will change the entire world in every way possible, from medical purposes, gaming industries, military and of course science. All of this will leads us to discover new ways of seeing things and understanding them. But the trickiest part of all will be to make a full immobile VR immersion, in which would transport our conscience to a virtual created world. This article also reminds me of another game which has almost the same concept. It’s called SOMA. In this game the last of humanity struck by an apocalyptic event, decided to make copy of their conscience and upload them to a virtual world installed into a satellite and launched into space to live former as the last remanentes of the human race. But yes all this about virtual reality, virtual worlds and complete immersion is what I belive to be the next big thing to happens to us. I do hope you people continue with you complete immersion projects, because sincerely who doesn’t especially for gamers like me.

    • Viz Ddraig says:

      Ya it is true that we are going into the era of vr and ya the concept of vmmorpg is also shown in avatar movie and matrix too and as a fact the full dive vr will revolutionize the world just think injecting everything into the brain via signals the person can learn anything without reading books and a society in which all the persons have knowledge of everything no boring schools and colleges and no dull students getting less marks getting scolded for their incompitence in learning lol and ya curing diseases related to neural function and related to fear and use of daily appliances without remotes and switches i wanna see that day when this becomes reality lets hope it will happen and ya the main thing we may become immortal too as you know with new tissue and genetic science we can create an exact body copies and download ourselves to the new body which would be awesome too lol

      • jj says:

        maybe. but stop and think. at the rate were going now only the rich will have these things you speak of. if you cant imagine it watch the tv show incorporated. only one season but you will understand what im talking about

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