VR goggles and the quest for the out of body experience

There is a strange phenomenon out there, one which many of you may have experienced, called the Out of Body Experience, or OBE. All of a sudden, you're standing outside yourself — sometimes even viewing yourself. The feeling can be unnerving, especially for those who have had the experience more than once.

But now, in the interest of science (and maybe healing), researchers are working on a way to recreate the OBE at the drop of a hat. And as it turns out, the process isn't all that complicated. By filming test subjects from behind and then having them wear VR headsets which display their own images, scientists have been able to recreate the feeling of stepping outside your own skin.

Just viewing the image of yourself from behind isn't enough to trigger the effect alone. To really induce the sensation of being outside your skin, scientists have added a visual effect to the video: a white aura which blinks in harmony with your heartbeat. Once the blinking light is triggered, your perception shifts. You know that the body onscreen is yours, but you also know that you're standing behind it.

Trippy OBE experiences are cool in their own right, but the scientists behind the study are actually hoping to do some good with their technique. They theorize that reliably triggered OBEs could help patients suffering from incorrect body identities. Case in point: people suffering from anorexia often think that they're larger than they actually are. By showing them an outside view of themselves, these individuals can see exactly what they've been putting their bodies through. There might also be some seriously awesome VR gaming applications down the line, but for now we'll have to be satisfied with getting folks the freaky therapy they need.

Psychological Science, via Gizmag

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