Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Virtual reality changing social behaviors

Maybe virtual reality is going to solve one of the greatest health issues facing Americans today - physical inactivity – by influencing their social behaviors through computer simulation.

“We have developed model that allows people to see what they are and how they look like on TV,” says Jeremy Bailenson at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University.

Jesse Fox, a candidate for Ph.D, who has actually done the studies and developed the model, says, “People who look at themselves running in virtual reality for a period of 24 hours actually exercise more in the real world”.

“This seems to indicate that program will make them do it (exercise) later or change their life pattern”, she says, speaking about a study she made about how people experience virtual reality.

Ms. Fox explains that she has created another program in which a teacher in virtual reality looks at every student at the same time. This makes the teacher appear more life-like. So students pay more attention to the lecture.

“In virtual reality, we can produce unique, new social structures,” Ms. Fox says.

Can lesson from the lab be used in business? Bailenson and Fox say they are not worried about the commercial relevance of their research. “It is not our job to do marketing,” says Ms. Fox. “We have developed a program. It is now up to the people who do business how they transform it in the market place.”

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