Project Proposal: Illusions and Out-of-body Experiences in VR

“The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution.” – Paul Cezanne
For my project, I would like to design and implement a Virtual Reality game that challenges our hardwired body representations in our brains. This curated experience would include but will not be limited to simulate an out-of-body experience and a set of illusions that creates disturbances on self-consciousness.

In an immersive virtual environment, one can feel ‘presence’ within the virtual environment. This happens through breaking the connection between our senses and the physical world surrounding us. Therefore, an immersive virtual environment provides us the world that is not subject to any materiality, albeit still a compelling one by replacing stimuli that we get from our surroundings. In such a setting, it is possible to manipulate concepts as well as the concepts. Changes in rules of physics, how time passes, and how one can interact with the environment allows for novel experiences. The objective experiences with expected outcomes can quickly become subjective ones.

In his book, “Surfing Uncertainty,” Andy Clark defines human mind as a prediction machine [1]. His theory of predictive processing revolves around the idea that human mind does not passively wait for stimulus to arrive: It tries to predict what would happen next and this a significant part of our perception of the world. By creating a narrative built upon experiences with not-so-predictable outcomes in a virtual environment, I aim to disturb the prediction machine. Here, I want to discover the reactions when this disturbance happens as well. By taking advantage of ‘presence’ in Virtual Reality, scholars studied consciousness and perception [2]. The difference here is that; this would not be a formal research. In contrast, this would be a game with an interactive narrative. The narrative would revolve around a person who is struggling with the repetitive and mundane daily tasks. The video below includes some inspiration for the illusions that I would embed in this story:

The body representation in a virtual environment is conveyed through avatars. The mirror neurons in our brains help images and art to create a sense of empathy [3]. In this experience, I aim to have mirrors so that a player can see her avatar. The thing with the avatar is that they will be completely randomized regarding their visual attributes. Through the idea of cyber bodies, the players would have their “rebirth” in the virtual environment. Unlike the large agency in character and avatar creation, the player would have absolutely no control over what she would end up with. The physical attributes of the avatar would change depending on the actions taken, and the player would often be questioned on his appearance by NPCs. Facing the players with this setting, narrative, and options, my aim is to raise empathy for others, which is often overlooked, by prompting self-consciousness.


[1] Clark, Andy. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, action, and the embodied mind. Oxford University Press, 2015.

[2] Sanchez-Vives, Maria V., and Mel Slater. “From presence to consciousness through virtual reality.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6.4 (2005): 332-339.

[3] Freedberg, David, and Vittorio Gallese. “Motion, emotion and empathy in esthetic experience.” Trends in cognitive sciences 11.5 (2007): 197-203.

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