VSRSS Guest Speaker: Dr. Michael Barnett-Cowan

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 4:30 pm - 4:30 pm EST (GMT -05:00)

More Than Meets The Eye: Multisensory Integration in Virtual Environments

Michael Barnett-Cowan PhD, FRSC, FRS
Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo

Headshot of Dr Barnett Cowan
ABSTRACT: Virtual reality (VR) is an interactive computer interface that immerses the user in a synthetic three-dimensional environment giving the user the illusion of being in that virtual setting. VR has rapidly grown in its accessibility to the general public and to researchers due to lower cost hardware and improved computer graphics. In this talk I will highlight a number of approaches we use in the multisensory brain and cognition lab to better understand the neural systems and processes that underlie perception and action in real and virtual environments. I will highlight the utility of using both commercially available virtual content as well as constructing virtual content with gaming engines for experimental purposes. Importantly, while much of focus of virtual reality development and use has been placed on the role of vision, I will discuss the multisensory nature of the virtual reality experience, particularly the interaction between bodily cues that affect the user experience. Finally, I will discuss our recent work on understanding and predicting individual differences in cybersickness, a negative side effect of VR exposure whose nauseating symptoms limit the utility and adoption of VR.

Keywords: augmented reality, brain stimulation, cognitive neuroscience, eye movements, multisensory, perception, psychophysics, vestibular, virtual reality, vision

BIOGRAPHY: Dr. Michael Barnett-Cowan is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Waterloo where he is the Director of the Multisensory Brain & Cognition laboratory. Michael received his PhD in Experimental Psychology in 2009 at York University with Laurence Harris at the Centre for Vision Research. He then took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany with Heinrich Bülthoff where he led the Cybernetics Approach to Perception and Action (CAPA) research group and was project leader for the Simulation of Upset Recovery in Aviation (SUPRA) F7 EU Research Grant. In 2012 he returned to Canada to work with Jody Culham at Western University's Brain and Mind Institute where he held appointments as an adjunct research professor and a Banting fellow. Michael's research program uses psychophysical, computational modelling, genomic as well as neural imaging and stimulation techniques to assess how the normal, damaged, diseased, and older human brain integrates multisensory information that is ultimately used to guide perception, cognition and action. For more info: https://uwaterloo.ca/multisensory-brain-and-cognition-lab/