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Virtual Dictionary


HRV stands for Heart Rate Variability and is a measure of the variation in the time delay between heartbeats of a given biological heart inside a living being's body. When scanned in real time through some form of biometric sensor, this interval becomes a potentially useful indicator of not just health, but also of emotional mental state.

This occurs because when we change our emotional state, the change doesn't just occur in our brains and stay in our brains. It also triggers changes throughout the body, as the body prepares to act on a physical reason for that change in state. The most famous is the 'fight or flight' reflex, in which a fear or anger emotion triggers our body to radically alter its priorities and shut down any system that is not immediately useful for attacking of fleeing from the source of the threat. Fight or flight doesn't work so well in modern societies because the fear or anger response may not be to a physical danger, but an uncomfortable activity we're about to do or even to something we've just read.

Regardless, the fight or flight response to fear or anger causes changes in the heart as elevated blood flow is required, so the heart pumps faster, and the interval between beats decreases. By tracking nothing else but heart rate variability we immediately know that the person the heart belongs to is scared or angry, based on this change alone.

But it doesn't stop there. Fight or flight is the most famous, but every emotional state has its own effects. Stress and high strain situations (such as a tight deadline) also decrease the time between heartbeats, but in a different pattern to anger. Relaxation increases it, and happiness will even produce identifiable patterns.

The pattern of heartbeats differs from individual to individual of course, and the alterations will be different when the individual is healthy compared to when they are sick, but they are consistent for the same individual. Over time a heart rate sensor can adapt to the peculiarities of an individual heart and map the emotional state of the user in real-time with a fair degree of accuracy.

Thus heart rate variability can actually be used as a form of brain interface, allowing a system to interact and alter itself in response to the subject's mood, or even allowing the subject's mood to be used as a control vector. You could, at the greatest extremes, drive a vehicle with mood alone. Although that could lead to some interesting situations if an accident happens and the user panics....

But in the main, it allows another method for direct brain input, that is non-invasive, and isn't adding more weight or mass of sensor systems to the over crowded head area to do so.

See Also: Brain Computer Interface, Neuroprosthetic, Biometric, Biometric Interface

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