Hanging out at different scales

As we move various aspects of our social life to shared immersive virtual reality, we don’t all need to present as the same size. It might be convenient, for various reasons, for somebody to appear 20 feet tall, while a group of five people might all fit on a tabletop.

I don’t know for sure whether this will happen, but it’s a reasonable thing to think about. After all, the next few years will be the first time in history when we will have the capability to hang out together everyday in a physical sense while defying the rules of nature.

We are used to seeing people at wildly different scales on what are now considered traditional media. Paintings, photographs, movie theaters, TV sets, smartphone screens, all of these forms of visual communication wreak havoc with the notion of immutable human scale.

Yet somehow our brains adjust to the sight of a movie star’s face being 30 feet tall at the cinema, while the friend we are chatting with on our smartphone has a face that is only two inches in height. None of it seems to bother us.

I suspect there is a part of our brains that automatically maps whatever we perceive as human to a “normal” size, on such a low level that we don’t even notice it happening. I see no reason why this perceptual transformation should not carry over into shared immersive worlds.

In any case, it’s an experiment worth carrying out. And it’s definitely something we are interested in trying in our Future Reality Lab at NYU.

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