Mel Slater: “Immersive Virtual Reality: Changing the Self Not Just the Place”

November 15, 2013 | USC ICT

Speaker: Mel Slater
Host: USC ICT Mixed Reality Lab

12:00 – 1:00PM | USC ICT Theater

Abstract: Virtual reality has typically been used to induce an illusory transformation of location. Instead of being in, for example, a lab, the participant has the illusion of being somewhere else, engaging in different activities. In recent years a great deal has been learned in cognitive neuroscience about how the brain represents the body. It has been found, counter to common sense, that although we tend to believe that our bodies are relatively stable it is surprisingly easy to give generate the illusion that the body has radically changed. For example, the rubber hand illusion shows that a rubber arm can be incorporated into what feels as if it is part of the body, the shrinking waist illusion can give the strong sensation of the waist radically reducing (or expanding) in size, and Pinocchio illusion that the nose has grown very long. It has been shown that an illusory transformation of the whole body is possible including the substitution of the real body by a virtual body. In this talk I will describe some of these illusions, but concentrate more on their behavioural and attitudinal correlates. It turns out that if you have a different body then at least temporarily this affects your attitudes and behaviours, opening up new experiences and feelings. In other words there is a new path for virtual reality – to change the self and not just the place.

Mel Slater is an ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona. He became Professor of Virtual Environments at University College London in 1997. He was a UK EPSRC Senior Research Fellow from 1999 to 2004, and has received substantial funding for virtual reality installations in both London and Barcelona. Twenty nine of his PhD students have obtained their PhDs since 1989. In 2005 he was awarded the Virtual Reality Career Award by IEEE Virtual Reality ‘In Recognition of Seminal Achievements in Engineering Virtual Reality.’ He leads the eventLab at UB. He is Coordinator of the EU 7th Framework Integrated Project VERE, and scientific leader of the Integrated Project BEAMING. He holds a European Research Council grant TRAVERSE on the specific topic virtual embodiment, and the general topic of a new area of application of virtual reality based on this theme.

Maria V. Sanchez-Vives, MD, PhD has been ICREA Research Professor at the IDIBAPS (Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer) since 2008, where she is head of the Systems Neuroscience group. She is Adjunct Professor of the Department of Basic Psychology at the University of Barcelona. She previously held a position as Associate Professor of Physiology and head of lab at the Instituto de Neurociencias de Alicante in Spain (UMH-CSIC). After obtaining her PhD, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Rockefeller University and Yale University. Her independent research on neuroscience and virtual reality has been supported by national and international agencies (Human Frontier Science Program and the EU) and she has been the supervisor of nine defended PhD theses. She has been a partner in five EU grants and currently is the coordinator of the FP7 project CORTICONIC. She is Specialty Chief Editor of Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience. Her interests include information processing in the cerebral cortex, body representation and the use of virtual reality from a neuroscience and medical perspective.