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  • Writer's pictureSamuel Hosovsky

I Am My Avatar; My Avatar Is Me

My physical body failed me, now I turn to the virtual one


An avatar one can fly with across the virtual worlds of VR Chat by LorcanTheAvali


Once, Noah200 dreamed he was a robin, a robin flickering and singing about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know that he was Noah200.Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Noah200. But he didn’t know if he was Noah200 who had dreamt he was a robin, or a robin dreaming that he was Noah200.


Immersive technologies can elicit sensations that rival those of our dreams, deceiving our perceptions of the world and of ourselves. Our senses, after all, are not foolproof. Virtually all of us have had our perception artificially altered — be it with perfumes, coffee, digital displays, or music. Endogenously, consider that 1% of us live with hallucinations or delusions due to schizophrenia (Casarella, 2022).


The difference is that we have never altered our perceptions with such fidelity and conviction as with Virtual Reality (”VR”).


The fidelity is achieved by connecting millions of points in 3D space into triangles, storing them in half-edge data structures, and continuously projecting them onto polygon meshes we recognize, along with properties defining how they interact with light, sound, and so on.

The conviction, on the other hand, relies on the believable algebraic transformation of these structures in response to time, the user’s motion, and interaction with the space.


Harnessing VR, people who are immobilized in the physical world can find joy and fulfillment in the virtual one.


This sentiment is especially shared among those with disabilities who make up a whopping 50% of SecondLife users — one of the most mature social virtual worlds (French, 2017).


Some of the most unfortunate are those whose lively minds are imprisoned by their own paralyzed bodies. Hearing, seeing, thinking but unable to move or express themselves.


Primitive tools like sip and puff switches allow them to communicate slowly, paired with a begrudging but valiant effort from their supportive counterparts. The space between a letter-covered plexiglass and the arduous breath patterns individuals must endure is filled with a motionless, silent, yet deafening frustration.


Like the SecondLife users, many people with paralysis across the world are opting for VR solutions: ones that maximize freedom of expression, rehabilitation, and positive clinical outcomes. While they stand to greatly benefit from VR, their control of it is near impossible. Fortunately, another technology, the Brain-Computer Interface (”BCI”), is stepping up to the challenge.


Implanted BCIs can decode their intended movements and speech directly from the associated brain areas before the paralysis nullifies them. After all, on a certain level, our actions are but an electrical signal.


Coupling VR with BCI even those with severe paralysis can become the robins, mermaids, scientists, dancers, or whatever forms they’ve dreamt of being.


Let’s embark on a journey to progressively evolve this seemingly impossible idea into a clinically feasible, practical solution.


 

Part 12 of a series of unedited excerpts from uCat: Transcend the Limits of Body, Time, and Space by Sam Hosovsky*, Oliver Shetler, Luke Turner, and Cai Kinnaird. First published on Feb 29th, 2024, and licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.



uCat is a community of entrepreneurs, transhumanists, techno-optimists, and many others who recognize the alignment of the technological frontiers described in this work. Join us!


*Sam was the primary author of this excerpt.

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