Sunday, December 7, 2008

we are who we see: bodyswap with your avatar

Okay, on PLoS One, there's a fascinating article about a Swedish team's research into The Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping. For those who don't like downloading sciencey pdfs, there's also a summary of the work in Wired, How to Use Neuroscience to Become Your Avatar:

By Alexis Madrigal, Wired, December 02, 2008

Research subjects fitted with goggles that stream video from cameras strapped to another person (or mannequin) can experience that body as their own, neuroscientists say.

And not just in a fluffy, philosophical way: the subjects experienced measurable physiological changes, as reported in the open-access journal Public Library of Science One.

The paper's authors argue that their work could prove important for future human-robot collaborations — and give hope to those dreaming of uploading their brains after the Singularity. What the researchers have found, they say, is a method for allowing humans to better inhabit non-flesh-and-blood consciousness.

(Thanks, Cindy)

For those who don't even like to read popular science summaries, here's the essence: our sense of self depends on what we see from what perspective. Basically, we think we are where are eyeballs are. So if you wear goggles streaming the video feed from someone wearing a camera pointed at your joined hands, and then a third person with a knife threatens those hands, you'll freak out more when the knife gets close to the other person's hand than your own. Our neural archictecture hasn't kept up with technology. This has the most amazing implications for things like telemetry and robotics. Wow. Time to turn the music up and boogie...

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