Virtual Reality Gets More Intense With Reality Substitution

March 30, 2015 | Liam Mathews

You know that episode of Black Mirror, “The Entire History of You,” where everyone has a memory implant that records everything they see and do and can be played back for the entertainment of their friends and psychological torment of their families? That, apparently, is closer to reality than it has ever been before, according to a Phys.org report.

A team of researchers and engineers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience has developed a virtual reality recorder that can capture high-quality video and audio of real-world situations and play them back over a VR headset like the Oculus Rift to create an immersive and realistic recreation. The reality substitution prototype was unveiled at the Brain Forum on March 30th in Switzerland. The scientists will soon begin using the system, called RealiSM, in clinical trials to study memory. They say it will be revolutionary in treating phobias and PTSD via immersion therapy.

A reporter for Schweiz am Sonntag, a Swiss newspaper, tested the prototype and says it’s effective. While wearing the headset in one room of the lab, he saw himself inside of a different room of the lab. “The amazing thing here, however: Even my body is there,” he writes (translated from German via Google). “I see my hands. A little dark, but still clearly recognizable as my hands – even the life lines appear.”

The goal of the RealiSM project, according to Phys.org, is to make virtual reality technology more accessible to average clinicians who are interested in VR as a tool but can’t afford to create their own proprietary technology. They also dream of seeing it used to film immersive cinema or create better videoconferencing.

If anything, though, it will mean that Tom Cruise in Minority Report won’t have to get high to relive memories of his family. Philip K. Dick lives.