Virtual Reality Gender Swap Puts You In Someone Else’s Shoes (And Underwear)

By Nick Venable | 7 years ago

The video below is deemed NSFW for some women who go topless in the name of science. Science!

Take one part Strange Days and one part Brainscan, then mix them both with my state of mind after having three bourbons while watching HBO’s Girls. The result is the much more thought-provoking series of social experiments from BeAnotherLab, through their central project The Machine to Be Another. It uses cameras and virtual reality headsets to simulate being another person. While not earth-shattering in its approach, it’s pretty extraordinary stuff on a person-by-person basis. And if you were wondering why Brainscan is in there, it’s because I want to know what it’s like to murder someone without getting in trouble for it. A-duh.

Just kidding, of course.

As BeAnotherLabs explains it, the Machine (as it were) “offers users the possibility of interacting with a piece of another person’s life story by seeing themselves in the body of this person and listening to his/her thoughts inside their mind.” It’s probably good that no one could really hear my thoughts in that situation. In the case of the video seen above, the subjects are given the chance to look through the eyes of the opposite gender for a little while. While there are many nefarious reasons to think they would have done this, these guys are of higher minds than me, and they are investigating such issues as “gender identity, queer theory, feminist technoscience, intimacy and mutual respect.”

While not a very technical experiment, it still involves quite a bit of cooperation between the participants. Using Oculus Rift VR headsets and first-person cameras, both parties have to agree on every single move they make, otherwise the images become disembodied from each person’s movements and the illusion is gone. It must be disorienting at first, if not the entire time, and there is definitely something humbling about allowing a person to live vicariously through your hands. The whole “looking into a mirror” part would have given me a snap case of multiple personality disorder.

For a different take on what the Machine can do, check out the video below, in which the device is used to simulate full-body movement for a person who is in a wheelchair, as a stepping stone towards rehabilitation. Awesome stuff, all around. Now if anyone wants to know what it’s like to shave my mustache and make myself a grilled cheese sandwich, pop on the nearest Oculus Rift.