The article, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/...">http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/17/people-virtual-reality-ava..., says:
Quote:They have successfully "projected" people into digital avatars that can move around a virtual environment. The participants experienced the digital body as if it were their own, even if the virtual humans were of the opposite sex.
The research is aimed at understanding how the brain integrates information coming from the senses in order to determine the position of the body in space. But the results could also be used in next generation computer games or for people who want to transport themselves, digitally, to other locations.
In his latest work, Blanke's volunteers used a similar VR set-up and then wandered through different digital 3D environments while researchers physically touched them either in sync or out of sync with the digital humans, to see where the volunteers thought their bodies were in the virtual space.
He also "projected" male volunteers into female avatars and placed volunteers directly into their avatars, so they were no longer watching from behind. Blanke reported that, even when moving in a virtual scene, volunteers felt as if whatever happened to the avatar happened to them.
"They start thinking that the avatar was their own body," said Blanke. "We created a partial out-of-body experience. We were able to disassociate touch and vision and make people think that their body was two metres in front of them."
The volunteers all wore skullcaps, which contained electrodes, to monitor the electrical activity in the brain. The data recorded by these showed a heightened response in the temporo-parietal and frontal regions of the volunteer's brains, compared to control conditions. These parts are responsible for integrating touch and vision into a coherent perception.
Blanke said the work on inducing these experiences artificially proved that they were nothing more than a brain malfunction. "Instead of it being a spiritual thing, it is the brain being confused," he said. "Why do we think that it is spiritual when we don't think a phantom limb when one is lost is an example of the paranormal?"
Even though people are currently generally quite physically detached from their online avatars, I have read of many people who closely associate with them anyway, which often helps to make these people more addicted to the video games. Using this latest virtual reality system would allow people to even more closely associate with their avatars (even if it is just due to a "brain malfunction") and, thus, possibly have the video games be even more addictive to those people who are susceptible to that.
- John O.
[em]Carpe Diem![/em] (Seize the Day!)