TECH

Scientists Use Virtual Reality To Make You 'Invisible'

27/04/2015 11:43 BST | Updated 27/04/2015 11:59 BST

Neuroscientists from Sweden's Karolinska Institutet have found a way to make us feel invisible, using virtual reality.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, the team took volunteers and stood them up. They then took a stand of equal height, equipped it with cameras and then placed in in front of them.

invisible man

The feed from the stand was then sent to the virtual reality headset, so when the subject looked down all they saw was empty space.

According to the Washington Post, this actually isn't enough to make a human feel 'invisible'. The team then took a large object -- in this case a paintbrush -- and prodded both the person and the empty space at the same time in the same corresponding area.

When the subject looked down they would see the paintbrush moving through empty space however there would of course be no body to relate to.

Incredibly, once this initial illusion was cemented in people's minds you could continue the illusion without then having to actually touch the subject again.

This was rather alarmingly demonstrated when the team took a kitchen knife and started stabbing the empty space under the camera. The heart rate and body temperature of the subjects were then scrutinised and, sure enough, they weren't happy about it.

The team weren't just testing the 'ghost limb' effect, they were also testing the social implications that come with feeling truly invisible.

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Study lead Doctoral student Arvid Guterstam explained to the Washington Post how the team presented the subject with a stern-looking crowd of people, almost looking aggressively towards the subject.

"We saw that in the invisible body, there was a reduction in both the physical stress response and in the subjectively perceived stress,"

Now the team know that they can make a person feel invisible, the next step is studying what this illusion is actually doing to the brain.