October 3, 2023

I’ve spent a lot of time in VR. A few of it’s spectacular; some, not a lot. However at this 12 months’s SXSW in Austin, Texas, I acquired the prospect to attempt a digital expertise referred to as Physique of Mine that opened my eyes to what this tech can actually do. I didn’t discover “the metaverse.” As an alternative, I acquired to discover myself.

Physique of Mine is an experimental storytelling expertise. It’s interactive, however not a “recreation,” per se. As an alternative, the VR surroundings places the viewer within the physique of somebody with a distinct gender than their very own. I’m a masc-presenting cis man, and so the artists who constructed it put me into a female lady.

Matching Up

The artists slipped an HTC Vive headset over my head and strapped a number of movement trackers to my physique. My ankles, wrists, higher arms, and waist every had a tracker that corresponded to the 3D mannequin of a lady’s physique, contained in the digital world. 

It took a short while to arrange, however as soon as it was prepared, I used to be wanting by her eyes. My arms had been her arms. Her legs had been my legs. My breasts had been … wait, dangle on.

The artists inspired me to discover and contact completely different components of “my” physique by wanting down at myself and right into a mirror that was positioned straight throughout from me. The phantasm wasn’t fairly excellent, nevertheless it broke by a psychological barrier that few items of media ever have. Once I play video video games with an avatar of a distinct gender, I would really feel just like the character I management is “me.” However right here, I inhabited this physique in a method that even different VR video games don’t actually pull off.

Elevating my palms to the touch “my” arms felt pure. I’m unsure if that’s as a result of my movement was tracked extra granularly or as a result of the artists ready me for what I used to be going to see. But it surely additionally felt a bit jarring. I used to be inside this physique, nevertheless it wasn’t mine. I do know my physique fairly nicely. I’ve pretty sturdy arms. I’ve a good quantity of physique hair. I don’t have breasts. I had none of this in widespread with this lady’s physique.

Once I touched sure components of my physique—comparable to my arms, legs, stomach, and head—the mannequin would begin to glow in that spot. Then, an audio clip would play. Physique of Mine’s crew interviewed round 20 trans folks to let their phrases and tales information this expertise, and also you hear their voices when you discover.

“We wished to dive into the precise sensation of gender dysphoria and the bodily manifestations of that,” stated Cameron Kostopoulos, Physique of Mine’s creator. “With a view to do this, we wished to have you ever relate to your personal physique, after which by that relate to those trans tales.”

Physique After Physique

Courtesy of Physique of Mine

After a couple of clips, the expertise modifications. The physique you begin out exploring disappears in a superb and enchanting impact that dissolves components of your physique little by little. Then, within the mirror, I begin to see extra our bodies seem, one after the opposite. 

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