02 December 2017

VR Hallucination Machine

A team of scientists in the UK say they have built a machine that can allow people to hallucinate without taking potentially dangerous drugs like magic mushrooms. Researchers used virtual reality headsets and artificial intelligence technology to create the 'Hallucination Machine' in the hope of learning more about consciousness and how the brain processes what we see. Employing Google's Deep Dream technology, scientists at Sussex University's Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science were able to create 'cyberdelic' images which overemphasise certain recurring details to make the brain work in overdrive.

One experiment saw a group of 12 volunteers shown an altered panoramic video of the team's university campus. The participants were then asked whether they felt disoriented in anyway, and whether they saw patterns and colours. They reported experiencing visual hallucinations similar to those brought on by psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. A second experiment, this time involving 22 volunteers, saw no evidence that participants felt any sense of temporal distortion, or a warped sense of time, suggesting the machine is unable to replicate all the effects of a psychedelic drug 'trip'.

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