A wise man once said, “In order for us to understand the rat, we must become the rat.” Now, it’s quite possible that no one has ever actually said this, but that doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that it’s the driving sentiment behind a project that’s seeking to bridge the gap that’s separating us humans from rodents. By using telepresence, immersive virtual reality, and robotic technologies, researchers are hoping to see things from a rat’s point of view.
The technique, which was developed by Mandayam Srinivasan and computer scientists working at UCL and the University of Barcelona, call it “beaming.” It works by having two different subjects, one human and one rodent, interact with each other through a virtual reality interface.
The experiment worked like this:
Human participants were asked to put on a head mounted VR display and interact with a virtual human that appeared on their screen. But this human wasn’t a human at all — it was a digital representation of a rat.