Recently scientists working at University College London, UK, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, have been working on inducing out of body experiences (OBEs). Each group used video cameras and special headsets to give people the visual stimulus of standing somewhere behind their own body. They then provided tactile stimulus consisting of touching the back or chest of the test subject. This gave the test subjects the feeling they were outside their own bodies.

They could even make the subjects identify a mannequin as being the source of sensations, in other words they felt as if the mannequin body was their own. This research could have an impact on tele-presence robots, imagine a doctor not only controlling a surgical robot from half way around the world but being so connected with it that they consider it to be another part of themselves. This could make such devices more intuitive to use and allow people to be more comfortable with their use.

The obvious implications of this research on the entertainment applications of computer gaming almost need not be mentioned, but what about immersive training for police or astronauts? Sticking to pure inquiry this could shed light on why we consider ourselves to have an existence inside our bodies, the “I” that sits behind our eyes as it were. It may even lead to a piece of the puzzle as to why we have consciousness at all.