Body Representation in Immersive Virtual Reality

31st March, 2011, 1.300-14.00

Malet Place Engineering Building

Room 1.02

Mel Slater

Department of  Computer Science, UCL
& ICREA-University of Barcelona

Computer programs can be written that digitally represent and simulate physical spaces and events. Immersive virtual reality systems provide a medium whereby the digital representation can be transformed into a stream of sense data (visual, auditory, haptic) that is displayed to people, and with which people can interact via body tracking systems. Typically virtual reality has been thought of as a way to place people inside representations of such simulations, where they have the feeling of being in the virtual place, and can carry out actions, and respond to events there. However, it is becoming clear that virtual reality can be used in a way that has hardly been explored up to now - not only can the sense of place be transformed, but also aspects of the sense of oneself, in particular the appearance of the body. In this talk we will describe several experiments that show that virtual reality is a very powerful technology for body substitution, that is giving people the strong feeling that their body has been replaced by a virtual body. This opens up the door for a powerful new exploitation of this technology for many applications, as well as for the basic science of understanding how the brain represents the body.

Mel Slater is Professor of Virtual Environments at UCL and an ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona, Spain. He founded the Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics research group in the Department of Computer Science at UCL and obtained two rounds of funding to install the virtual reality Cave system. He was a UK EPSRC Senior Research Fellow from 1999 to 2004. Twenty six of his PhD students have obtained their PhDs since 1989. In 2005 he was awarded the Virtual Reality Career Award by IEEE Virtual Reality ‘In Recognition of Seminal Achievements in Engineering Virtual Reality.’ He leads the eventLab at UB. He holds a European Research Council grant TRAVERSE on the specific topic virtual embodiment, and the general topic of a new area of application of virtual reality based on this theme.