Artist plans to wear Oculus Rift virtual reality headset for 28 days straight
A U.K-based artist plans to spend a month in a room wearing virtual reality headset Oculus Rift.
In those 28 days, Mark Farid will have a few handlers and remain in a confined setting that includes only a bed and bathroom area. His living space will be on display in London to an audience, like an art gallery. He will never remove the headset for the duration of the exhibition.
'I'll wear it constantly,' Farid told Mashable. 'I'll shower with it on. I'll go to the toilet. Eat.'
This concept might seem claustrophobic, but the theory is that he won't feel like he's there. The headset will be simulating a reality for Farid, and he thinks that, in time, it will appear authentic to him and learn habits (like the times he eats or showers) from the virtual world. It's an experiment to see if our identities are part of who we are or if they're something that is learned.
The project, called Seeing I, is up for backing on Kickstarter. If funding comes through, Farid and his collaborators - director John Ingle and curator Nimrod Vardi - will showcase the experiment in a documentary.
What Farid will be seeing isn't necessarily anything out of the ordinary. A man whom Farid has never met will wear glasses that capture audio and video, and the footage and sounds will be played back on Farid's headset. So what this man - called 'The Other' - sees, Farid will see. That could be anything from a bike ride to a funeral to a bad movie to (yes) a bathroom trip.
The Other's experiences will be filmed days in advance, then converted for use with the Oculus Rift. So Farid will be reliving the events several days after the fact. That way handlers can make preparations, like meal times and what food they'll need to have on hand.
Farid has some odd specifications for The Other: He must be male, and he must be heterosexual and in a relationship. The straight and male parts are because Farid is a straight male, and he doesn't want to 'complicate' things. The relationship part is so Farid has a 'narrative' of what's happening. A man in a relationship is more likely to say aloud that he's going out to buy milk then one who lives alone, for example.
Outside that, The Other will be cast without Farid's influence, and the idea is that this stranger will live his life as normally as possible. Farid believes that our realities and personalities are far more influenced by nurture than nature. Will Farid begin to actually feel like The Other? Will he stop thinking about what he's seeing as someone else's experiences and begin to see them as his own?
'I want to know if it's possible to lose the sense of myself,' Farid said. 'Maybe I'm not who I thought I am. My identity can be shaped into whatever I like.'
Farid acknowledges that it would be more lurid for the film if he started to, in real life, simulate The Other's behavior. After all, he has no company or stimulation, except for what The Other decides. But he hopes that his theory proves unfounded and nature beats out nurture. He wants to maintain his sense of self.
Farid is being upfront about the obvious concerns for both his physical and mental health and the affects of wearing a virtual reality headset for such an extended period of time isn't entirely known.
To keep tabs on this, a psychologist with training in neuroscience will spend time with Farid for an hour every night to make sure he isn't losing his mind. And Farid is willing to scrap the 28-day timeline if his well-being becomes jeopardized. 'This isn't an endurance test,' Farid said.
The time frame was chosen because Farid and his team believe that we develop and lose habits in just three weeks, though this 21-day theory is widely believed to be a myth. Still, Farid has some experts on his side. Simon Baron-Cohen, a cognitive neuroscience professor at Cambridge University, believes the project could open up a well of new methods to study social psychology.
The crew claims they've already spoken to a variety of experts, and a medical crew will be on standby throughout the project.
In February, Farid completed a 24-hour trial run at a London gallery. You can watch a demo video to get a better idea of what these 28 days will be like for him.
BONUS: This Oculus Rift game will scare the crap out of you Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.