Capturing Human Interaction in the Virtual Age

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fNIRS

Capturing Human Interaction in the Virtual Age: A Perspective on the Future of fNIRS Hyperscanning.

Abstract
Advances in video conferencing capabilities combined with dramatic socio-dynamic shifts brought about by COVID-19, have redefined the ways in which humans interact in modern society. From business meetings to medical exams, or from classroom instruction to yoga class, virtual interfacing has permeated nearly every aspect of our daily lives. A seemingly endless stream of technological advances combined with our newfound reliance on virtual interfacing makes it likely that humans will continue to use this modern form of social interaction into the future. However, emergent evidence suggests that virtual interfacing may not be equivalent to face-to-face interactions. Ultimately, too little is currently understood about the mechanisms that underlie human interactions over the virtual divide, including how these mechanisms differ from traditional face-to-face interaction. Here, we propose functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) hyperscanning-simultaneous measurement of two or more brains-as an optimal approach to quantify potential neurocognitive differences between virtual and in-person interactions. We argue that increased focus on this understudied domain will help elucidate the reasons why virtual conferencing doesn’t always stack up to in-person meetings and will also serve to spur new technologies designed to improve the virtual interaction experience. On the basis of existing fNIRS hyperscanning literature, we highlight the current gaps in research regarding virtual interactions. Furthermore, we provide insight into current hurdles regarding fNIRS hyperscanning hardware and methodology that should be addressed in order to shed light on this newly critical element of everyday life.

PMID: 33240067 [PubMed]

Front Hum Neurosci. 2020;14:588494

Authors: Balters S, Baker JM, Hawthorne G, Reiss AL

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