A new topic which we recently entered for our virtual rowing project in the M3 lab is the assessment of psychological states (stress, engagement, frustration) with physiological parameters (heart rate, skin conductance, brain activity). The term psychophysiology describes this scientific area best.

It is actually very interesting for us from a scientific point of view. We will investigate rowing subjects who are confronted with virtual audience or competitors. Our hypothesis is that they will react as in real life, leading to a change in performance, e.g. choking. We hope to measure changes in physiological parameters which explain this effect, as increased arousal during audience exposure. This would also be an indication for presence, the sense of being there in the virtual environment, since people react in similar ways as is known from reality.

But we are not the only ones interested in psychophysiology. Microsoft filed a patent to monitor the psychological state of employees (see Times article). As usual people are afraid of being monitored and see this as a Big Brother technology. I personally would also see the advantages, imagine for example that your computer blocks when you are too stressed to focus and should go for a walk to relax. But of course the idea of being fired because your performance, based partially on this data, has decreased causes fears. My point in this argument would be that not technology is evil, but people who use it.