Demonstration of a Substitutional Reality System

A fascinating post by Mo Costandi summarizes a recent open access article by a group of Japanese researchers (Suzuki et al., 2012):

Inception helmet creates alternative reality

Substitutional Reality system could be used to study cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric patients
. . .

Most of us distinguish between real and imagined events using unconscious processes to monitor the accuracy of our experiences. But these processes can break down in some psychiatric conditions. Patients with schizophrenia, for example, can experience auditory and visual hallucinations that they believe are real, while some brain damaged and delusional patients live in a world of perpetual false memories. Japanese researchers have developed an “Inception helmet” that manipulates reality to simulate such experiences, and could be used to study cognitive dysfunction in psychiatric disorders.

 

The video below was included as Supplementary Material with the Scientific Reports open access article (Suzuki et al., 2012). It shows how the system manipulates the wearer’s reality by seamlessly switching between live and recorded scenes.

Demonstration movie of the SR system. The upper left panel shows the image stream
presented on the HMD screen. This is the subjective view watched by the participant.
Live scenes are bordered with orange and recorded scenes with green. Neither the
border nor the “live” caption was visible to the participant. The upper right panel
shows an objective view of the participant’s actual environment. The lower panel
indicates a conversation between an experimenter (captioned in white) and
participant (captioned in blue).

The movie began with a live scene but switched to a recorded scene at 00:34 (Normal
Question scene). The participant did not notice the switch. During the Normal
Question scene the participant carried on a natural conversation without doubting the
reality of the situation, although in actuality, the experimenter was not in front of him.
At 1:32, the Doppelgänger scene began. In this condition, the participant did not
initially notice the substitution, but became aware of it at 1:40 when he saw his own
image (Doppelgänger). After the details of the SR system were explained, the Fake
Live scene began at 2:07. He could not detect the scene is a recorded one.

After the experience of these scenes, some participants were confused about which
scenes were real (see episode after 2:45). They were less confident in discriminating
whether they were experiencing a recording or actual reality, even when they were
genuinely interacting with the experimenter.

Reference

Keisuke Suzuki, Sohei Wakisaka and Naotaka Fujii (2012). Substitutional Reality System: A Novel Experimental Platform for Experiencing Alternative Reality. Scientific Reports, 2: 459. DOI: 10.1038/srep00459

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