Documenting the Coming Singularity

Friday, August 24, 2007

Out-of-Body Virtual Reality: Are You Ready?

Researchers are finding out what it feels like to have an out-of-body experience. An interesting use of VR, don't you think? Placing VR goggles on test subjects that show them the view from a set of cameras actually situated behind them, then giving them a poke in the chest while simultaneously poking at the air in front of the cameras, gives subjects the feeling that they are being poked in the chest while outside their bodies. Very weird, but cool, they say.
Researchers equipped subjects with virtual-reality goggles that showed images from a video camera setup — two cameras spaced like a pair of eyes. When placed behind the person wearing the goggles, the cameras acted as a "virtual self" that looked at the subject's back.

As subjects watched themselves from behind, an experimenter prodded their chests with one hand while prodding the air just below the cameras at the same time. Because subjects could see the experimenter's hand but not the spot it was poking, researchers said subjects felt as if they were being poked in the chest — outside their bodies.

“This was a bizarre, fascinating experience for the participants," Ehrsson said. "It felt absolutely real for them and was not scary. Many of them giggled and said ‘Wow, this is so weird.’”

I can't wait till this is available for the rest of us!

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Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is quite the same thing as an "out-of-body" experience as it's generally understood. I had a similar experience to the one described in this article, so maybe I can comment with some additional insight.

About 15 years ago, during an arthroscopic knee surgery, I received an epidural anesthesia, rendering absolutely no feeling below my waist. Shortly after the surgery, when I touched anywhere below my waist, it was if I were touching someone else's body, not mine. It was a very weird, dis-orienting feeling. What is being described in the article sounds very similar to the way I felt.

It's possible that when a person is near death, and/or oxygen starved, these same sans-feelings may be in play and are difficult for the brain to interpret and make "normal" sense of. The brain may then try to construct and make sense of what signals it is getting and not-getting, resulting in the out-of-body illusion.

I believe what these researchers are describing is a clue to the out-of-body experience, but not the same thing.

bmahfood said...

That's a very intriguing story. Thanks for sharing it. I agree that it gives us a clue as to the nature of OOBE.