How convincing is virtual reality? To our conscious mind, not at all (Seriously, have you seen Second Life?), but to our subconsciousnesses? Well, it depends how real everyone else thinks it is, apparently.
European scientists are studying the way in which people react to virtual environments and discovering that sometimes, things seem more real than they actually are:
For one experiment they developed a virtual bar, which test subjects enter by donning a virtual reality (VR) headset or immersing themselves in a VR CAVE in which stereo images are projected onto the walls. As the virtual patrons socialise, drink and dance, a fire breaks out. Sometimes the virtual characters ignore it, sometimes they flee in panic. That in turn dictates how the real test subjects, immersed in the virtual environment, respond.
"We have had people literally run out of the VR room, even though they know that what they are witnessing is not real," says Slater. "They take their cues from the other characters."
The reason behind the experiments is to find out whether or not VR can be used to treat patients with extreme phobias, according to the scientists. But, somehow, finding out that they also created a virtual version of the Milgram experiment makes me feel as if something more Manchurian Candidate may be going on.
When Virtual Reality Feels Real [Science Daily]