It turns out that Virtual Reality simulations are particularly suitable for creating a close link between users and their virtual avatars. To a point where it’s easy to start perceiving virtual representation as our own reality, to feel every event in our own body.

Andrey Krekhov, a member of the project research team based at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, has made this clear. They have been able to realize the hypothesis that such an illusion of virtual body ownership (IVBO) has a particularly high, though overlooked, the potential for non-human avatars. 

That’s why psychologists at the University of Duisburg-Essen are working to understand how VR can be used to transport people to different bodies, and are getting fabulous results with animal avatars.

The benefits of using VR to feel like an animal

But what are the benefits of using VR to feel like an animal? The method followed at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany was simple and preliminary. They surveyed 37 volunteers and studied their reaction to the illusion of using VR to feel like an animal, measuring how they responded in VR and asking them to rate their experiences. 

They looked closely at three particular animals – a scorpion, a rhinoceros, and a bird – to explore possible avatar controls and play mechanisms based on specific animal skills.

This team of scientists managed to find that the animal incarnation could be even more credible, and more enjoyable than controlling the human form.

This experiment shows that even spiders, despite having a skeleton that differs significantly from that of a human being, offer a similar degree of the illusion of virtual body ownership compared to humanoid avatars… They found that bats and spiders were generally classified above the human form.

“The bat behaved exactly as I expected,” said one of the participants, “and it was intriguing to precisely control the movements of my wing because it seemed realistic to me. 

Thanks to the results of this study, the rest of the researchers can get a tremendous potential for their VR game findings.

It appears that the incorporation of animals as player avatars into VR has the potential to reveal a set of novel game mechanics and can even lead to a “bestial” VR game genre.

Using animal skills like flying like a bird or crawling like a spider could be significantly more appealing to VR due to the greater presence compared to games without VR. 

They may also benefit from using their findings as fuel for upcoming animal avatars and as a way to better understand their behavior.

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