One of the most amazing aspects of Virtual Reality is its many applications. It can almost be applied to every industry and aspect of our lives. In the experiment below and in the video you can see how researchers are using Virtual Reality in the medical and psychology fields.
Have you ever wondered how it must look like to be a man or a women? It is fascinating research, you may be curious to find out what it would look like if you were a women. What would it be like to have breasts or in the case of a women what would it be like if your chest was flat.
However for many people who have gender issues it may help to explore their bodies from the point of view of a different gender. Researchers at the virtual reality lab and installation have been examining how technology, empathy, and, in the case of its Gender Swap experiment, gender identity, can intersect. Through head-mounted displays, users switch perspectives and effectively see through each other’s eyes — in a profound exercise in embodiment.
Similarly the technology can be used to see what someone else is seeing without being there. In the video above, users stand facing a mirror or sit with their backs to their partner (someone of the opposite biological sex), and move in sync with each other. Although they touch and can feel themselves, they only see their partner’s body and gestures. As long as their movements remain synchronized, the effect is consistently surprising, as the video gives us glimpses of each user’s point of view.
This isn’t a totally scientific experiment — after all, the users, many of whom are performers of some kind, were aware of the purpose of the project when they agreed to participate. (Just imagine the instant disassociation an unknowing user would feel during such an experiment.) Still, it’s some of the most exciting progress we’ve seen to date, both in the world of Virtual Reality and in terms of helping to understand gender identity.
Embodiment experiments, like those conducted by “The Machine to be another”, take the idea of “walking in someone else’s shoes” almost literally. If this kind of technology can trigger a temporary thrill of living in another person’s skin, couldn’t it bridge gaps between disparate experiences, too?