By now, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Oculus Rift reaction videos floating around the Internet. In case you haven’t— Oculus Rift is essentially the first accessible, high quality set of stereoscopic virtual reality goggles. Typical reactions to trying the goggles include awe, disbelief and mild confusion about voices in the room, due to the user’s brain being tricked into thinking they’re actually in the virtual space they’re perceiving. If our brains are so easily tricked into accepting a new reality within minutes, it seems plausible that we aren’t too far from a virtual world so real, seductive and full of sensory stimulation that we might actually forget we’re in it, or just not want to leave it.
Admittedly, adorning a nice VR headset is not enough to seamlessly integrate us into an electronic world, but coupled with a technology known as a BCI (brain-computer interface), it might be. The idea of a brain-computer interface may sound like straight up Science Fiction, but scientists have actually been experimenting with, and researching BCIs thoroughly since the 1970’s. Animal and human subjects fitted with BCIs have been able to manipulate cursors, games, implants, objects and yes, three-dimensional VR environments in a shockingly wide variety of ways just by thinking about it. How is this possible? As it turns out, the human brain has quite a knack for changing and figuring things out on the fly, often with basically no learning curve. Scientists call this phenomenon “neuroplasticity.” Take, for example the case of 14-year-old teenage boy fitted with a subdural (beneath his skull) BCI.… Read the rest