Could our brains be fooled by virtual reality?
VR is changing the way we interact with technology, but we're a long way from becoming The Lawnmower Man just yet.
Asked by: Matt Tuttle, Reading
It’s actually very easy to fool the brain – just browse some basic optical illusions online to get an idea. So yes, VR can trick the brain in all sorts of ways. In fact, one of the obstacles to the next wave of gaming VR has been the way the technology confuses the brain with a mismatch of sensory signals. The visuals say you’re flying in plane, for instance, but your vestibular system (in your inner ear) says you’re stationary. The result for many players is motion sickness. Could we ever truly mistake the virtual world for the real world? For that we’d probably need whole-body immersion, not just a VR headset.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.