When we were kids, the world was a bigger place for us. Our teachers used to tower over us and playgrounds used to stretch on infinity. Researchers have not found a way to make adults feel the same way. Scientists can help adults see the world through the eyes of a kid by allowing them to volunteer in virtual reality.
To enter into virtual reality, people wear full-body suits that can track their movements along with goggles that show an artificial world in which the adults have a virtual body. If the virtual as well as real movements sync well, the computer-generated bodies begin to seem real.
Researchers done earlier show that the subjects start to feel like their body has transformed into the simulated figure even if it is different in reality. The volunteers reported that they felt certain emotions that their computer-generated bodies were exposed to, such as when they were placed into the body of a teenage girl, they “felt” it when the girl’s mother slapped her. But while this experiment was on the scientists did not know how the virtual body “ownership” affected people’s perception of the world around them and whether it could help people to relate with others unlike themselves.
To find out, Mel Slater, the computer scientists from the University of Barcelona in Spain along with his colleagues placed a few adult volunteers into a virtual outdoor scene in which they did not have a body that was generated electronically. These volunteers were then asked to estimate the sizes of 6 different cubes within the scene and were then told if their guesses were too small, too big or the correct size. The volunteers were made to reenter the scene with three cubes and were told to repeat the exercise without a feedback from the researchers. The estimates given by the volunteers without a virtual body were taken a note of.
Once this exercise was over, the researchers place their subjects in two different avatars or virtual characters. One was that of a 4-year old child of the same gender as the participant and the other of an adult of the same height as the child.
The adults said that they felt two virtual bodies were equally real and that they misjudged the object size in both the avatars. Those in the child avatar rated the cubes about twice as large as did those in the adult bodies.
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