Riken’s ‘substitutional reality’ system blurs line between virtual and reality

[From The Japan Times; a 3:26 minute video is available here and the full research report is here]

Riken develops system blurring line between virtual and reality

June 28, 2012

The Riken research institute says it has developed a “substitutional reality” system to study how the brain works when people become confused about the reality of what they perceive.

In an experiment using the system, subjects could not tell the difference between real-life scenes and recorded ones displayed on special head-mounted gear, according to an article by Riken published in the British journal Scientific Reports.

The head-mounted equipment includes a goggle-shaped display, a 360-degree panoramic video camera at the front of the display, a microphone and noise-canceling headphones.

The wearer is presented with real-time video images and sounds through the display and the headphones. All sounds and images captured from the gear can also be recorded and stored on a computer and replayed on the headphones and display.

The gear can display live and recorded scenes alternately. If the position of the wearer’s head is the same as when the recordings were made, it is difficult for the wearer to distinguish live images from those recorded earlier.

A head-orientation sensor also allows the display to present recorded images in line with the movements of the wearer’s head.

Riken conducted the experiment on 21 subjects in a special room, in which they were asked to wear the gear, sit back in a chair and look around freely without looking down at themselves, which would not be visible in prerecorded images.

Riken switched from live to recorded images just as the subjects moved their heads, but none noticed the change.

“Our SR system is a novel method that allows the manipulation of reality and uncertainty in normal participants,” the article said. “These manipulations can serve as useful tools for understanding the mechanisms of metacognitive functions and psychiatric diseases.”


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