The eyes tell us what’s going on in the brain during VR training, SOMAREALITY shows

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  • Founders: Adrian Brodesser, Michel Warilek
  • Year of establishment: 2019
  • Employees: 16
  • Money received:-
  • Ultimate goal: Offer insight into adaptive learning, medical diagnostics and monitoring.

We are seeing it more and more: training courses and assessments that are conducted using virtual reality. But how does an educational institution or hospital know if their VR training is the best fit for the end user? SOMAREALITY, based in Austria, develops sensor-based digital biomarkers, such as eye trackers, that provide insights about the user for adaptive training or cognitive learning. In this early part of the day, Julia Kern, director of strategic partnerships, tells us how the company is doing.

Tell us why you chose to focus on eye tracking?

“It’s an objective way to measure what’s going on in a person. The eyes give us insight into many cognitive and neurological processes. This information can be very useful, for example, in a training environment in a VR world. When someone goes through a workout, are they relaxed? Or are they feeling stressed? Pupil dilation is one of the most accurate markers of what information is being processed because it is real-time. If you know all these things, you can tailor the training to the user’s needs. In this way, people can learn, observe and experience the environment in the digital space in the best possible way.

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What stage is SOMA at now?

“We are currently licensing our first product, our proprietary cognitive load algorithm, to international customers and research institutions. We are also currently raising seed money to become a leading player in real-time neurological insights based on eye tracking.

Who are your customers?

“So far, we have applied cognitive load to medical training simulations in collaboration with, for example, the Medical University of Vienna, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and others. In health care, other projects include physical rehabilitation programs, pain management, or mental health treatment (such as for anxiety or addiction disorders). But we also cater to other non-healthcare industries whenever it’s worthwhile.

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What has been one of the biggest milestones so far?

“I think it’s really cool that we already have a ready-made product that can be easily implemented in all different types of VR experiences and that provides real value to our partners in many industries. It’s something we’re really proud of, but it’s just the beginning.

Or have you faced challenges?

“Of course, there are many of them, just like in any other industry. From a technical point of view, it can sometimes be very difficult to put all the pieces together. We need to understand our algorithm, how it interacts with the VR world, and how to adapt it to a specific setting, such as the medical technology industry. But once you’re able to sit down with a client, really understand the unique market drivers, regulations, constraints and opportunities, it’s always a pleasure to co-imagine a solution and pave a new path.

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Where do you hope to be in five years?

“Our ultimate goal is to understand human behavior and gain cognitive insights every day across many different industries. Eye tracking is a hugely underrated tool to deeply understand what’s going on in our brains, and the use case possibilities are endless. Every company I know has overused the word ‘impact,’ and it’s written in every article. But we really want to make a difference and help people better understand themselves and their cognitive processes. From a technical standpoint and outside of a lab setting, it’s something that’s never been done before. And that is our ultimate goal.”


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