Watch Oculus Rift let people virtually swap bodies, genders

Strange days are coming.

A collective of artists and scientists called Be Another Lab have created a way to use the Oculus Rift to see what it would be like to occupy someone else's body.

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Now if only my actual body could pull off red stripes.

While we're still sorting out how to swap people's brains like in every cartoon ever, Be Another Lab has created the next best thing by staging a symmetrical set of two identical spaces, then having two participants wear Oculus Rifts to see what the other person is seeing. By doing this the participants are able to virtually body swap and live out their Trading Places / Freaky Friday fantasies.

Entitled The Machine to Be Another, the goal of the project is to explore empathy and the nature of the self. "More than individuals, we are part of a social collective called humanity," the collective explained on its official site. "As members of this collective, the perception of our own identity is based on our relation with other people and our social environment: how people see us, how we do act and interact with them, and what self image we project to this society and to ourselves."

"As part of this collective society, it is clear the importance of understanding the 'Other' and 'Each Other' to better understand ourselves. This artistic investigation plans to use the recent neuroscience approach of 'embodiment' and apply it to investigate the perception and comprehension about the Self based on the comprehension of the 'Other.'"

In other words, how would we behave differently if we had a different body? It would certainly change things like our confidence and the way we're perceived, and those factors in turn would alter how we'd behave around others. It's a fascinating philosophical query, and The Machine to be Another can only get us one tiny controlled step closer to understanding by allowing users to virtually swap bodies in a tightly controlled environment.

Unfortunately, the only way to get the simulation to work is if both parties follow the same movements, lest the illusion be broken. Still, it's a neat way to at least catch a fleeting glimpse of what it's like to be someone else.

See how it works in action in the video below. [Warning: It's NSFW as it contains nudity.]

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