JLister, for Geeks are Sexy:
The invisibility study stems from work on phantom limb syndrome in which amputees still perceive pain and other feelings from the missing limb. Neuroscientists at the Karolinska Institute have previously found it possible to create a form of phantom limb syndrome in non-amputees by placing the subject’s arm out of sight behind a screen, and repeatedly stroking both the arm and the empty (visible) space with a brush at the same time. When they then stopped stroking the arm and instead only stroked the empty space in front of the subject, the subject still “felt” the stroking on their arm.
The researchers decided the next step was to see if that illusion could work for an entire body. They got test subjects to wear a virtual reality headset that was hooked up to a camera pointing down at another spot on the floor. That meant whenever the subject looked down, they would appear to see an empty space beneath them where their body should be.
It all started in good fun with the so-called The Rubber Hand Illusion (YouTube), but basic VR gear is now allowing people to explore more radical transformations… and deeper questions, too.
More recently, BeAnotherLab developed The Machine To be Another to explore a crude but eerily convincing body-swapping illusion. If it’s useful to study our sense of self, empathy, or morality, I’m all for it. But I also look forward to the day when we can swap bodies (or projections) with no visible gear, and just the subtlest of gestures.