Metachron: How to Manipulate The Sense of Time

Within the framework of the European research project Virtualtimes, a diverse and multidisciplinary team of experts in psychology, psychopathology, cognitive neuroscience, engineering, computer science and philosophy is developing Metachron. The “intelligent” virtual reality platform aims to study, manipulate and treat distortions related to the sense of time.

Metachron comprises two main components: artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR). With AI (including the use of EEG and machine learning), Metachron u detects the psychophysiological states of participants in the experiment. With VR, Metachron manipulates time perception to modify the appearance of a starfield.

To illustrate the point, when participants think about running, AI set forth in Metachron will detect the psychophysiological state of these individuals while the starfield present in VR application accelerates speed.

How does the experiment work?

The first step includes setting up the EEG and placing every electrode in the right position. The individual overseeing the experiment will then help the participant to put on the VR headset. 

Following that, the machine undergoes calibration for thoughts to be detected. Participants will read the instructions wherein they must visualize themselves standing in a bus without moving when they see a standing person (relax icon) and, conversely, imagine their legs moving when a running icon appears. These icons will continue appearing until the machine has accumulated enough data to be calibrated.

After these steps, Metachron’s machine learning will apply the data recorded as running or relaxing imagery, and the matrix will calculate the probability of both running and relaxing. The information obtained will then help update the velocity of the startfield.

Once these actions have been completed, the experiment can begin. When running is detected (associated with the blue color), the starfield accelerates. When relaxing is detected (associated with the red color), the starfield decelerates. 

The goal of the experiment

What, therefore, is the purpose of the VIRTUALTIMES research project?

As already stated, Metachron manipulates the sense of time. The structure and passage of time can undergo changes triggered by psychopathological conditions like depressive disorders, autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. People experiencing these conditions may feel “time flying” or, inversely, “stuck in time”. 

Thanks to the use of Metachron, the Virtualtimes project can allow researchers to investigate the possibility of how to improve and change distortions and symptoms of psychopathological conditions.

Funded by the European Union, Virtualtimes aims to provide individuals with opportunities to re-experience and normalize a variant and distorted sense of time.  

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