Cyberselves in Immersive Technologies 2014

Our present project evolved from an earlier AHRC-funded Science in Culture grant, initially awarded in 2014.

Below is information on the original project:


Cyberselves in Immersive Technologies

Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Oxford, and Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain), have been awarded an £80,000 AHRC Science in Culture Innovation Award to investigate “Cyberselves in Immersive Technologies”. With the development of next generation virtual reality and telepresence technologies, the possibility of experiencing the world from a point-of-view other than that from behind our own eyes is becoming a possibility for all of us.

Fully immersive technologies, through which you have the compelling feeling of being in another place or body, are on the near horizon, and scientists and technologists are everyday discovering new ways to directly manipulate your experience of where, what, or even who, you are. As more and more people devote time and energy to life in virtual or ‘cyber’ realities—with different degrees of immersion—our ‘cyberselves’, the people who we become in these alternative worlds, could become as important to us as our ‘real’ selves.

The new project, which begins in the Autumn 2014, will explore these immersive technologies—virtual and augmented reality, telepresence and teleoperation— that allow the experience of self to be radically altered along physical, temporal and/or social dimensions. By combining approaches from literature and film studies, behavioural science, cognitive science, and philosophy, the project will
look at how these experiences could transform human relationships and cultures, and even alter how we see ourselves.

The project will involve experimental studies using a virtual reality environment, and the comparison of immersion in this virtual world with that of experiencing the real world through telepresence (remote presence) interfaces to an advanced humanoid robot. Combining approaches from both the arts and
sciences, the project will explore both subjective and objective measures of this immersive experience. As part of the project, a series of public engagement events will be organised including screenings of science fiction movies related to the experience of immersion.

Professor Tony Prescott, the Director of the Sheffield Centre for Robotics, who
leads the project said:

People have long been fascinated with the idea of projecting the self outside of the body, or into a different body, or even into a different world. We can see this in literature, in subjective reports of mystical experiences, and also in science fiction fantasies such as The Matrix and Avatar. With new immersive technologies, it is now becoming possible for anyone to have a compelling experience of an alternative reality or body. Our project aims to better understand how these technologies will impact on our lives in the near future, and promote an informed debate about the potential benefits and risks of
living more of our lives as cyberselves.

Project details

Start date: 1st November 2014
Duration: 1 year Value: £80,000
Awarding body: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Award type: AHRC Science in Culture Innovation Award

University of Sheffield, Department of Psychology
Professor Tony Prescott (Principal Investigator)
Dr Tom Stafford
Dr Stuart Wilson
Dr Michael Szollosy

University of Sheffield, School of English
Professor Adam Piette
Dr Fabienne Collignon

University of Oxford, Centre for Neuroethics
Professor Julian Savulescu
Dr Hannah Maslen

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona
Synthetic Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems group (SPECS)
Professor Paul Verschure