Virtual reality is used to transport us to other worlds, but usually just for a short burst here and there. One British artist is prepared to do it for much, much longer. Mark Farid wants to live in a gallery wearing a VR headset and noise-cancelling headphones for 28 days, streaming another person's daily experiences.
If all this talk of assuming another identity seems like it'd be a complicated proposition, it is. A Kickstarter launched today is seeking a hefty £150,000 in funding to make it a virtual-reality reality.
The project is named Seeing I and at the heart of the idea is that Farid will basically insert himself into someone else's life, a person who Farid refers to as "The Other". This person, whom Farid does not know, will be wearing his own set of equipment (glasses with two cameras and two binaural microphones) to help Farid "see" and "hear" everything he's doing.
The plan is that Farid will eat when The Other eats. He'll sleep when The Other sleeps. He'll poop when The Other poops. For the duration of the experiment Farid will have no contact with humans outside of whatever The Other does. And he'll be wearing the goggles the whole time.
Once the Other goes to sleep, the audience will be asked to leave for one hour, so that Mark can be administered the care of a psychologist with special training in neuroscience, through the headphones. Mark will be wearing the VR headset throughout, and this will act more as verbal diary, but will also allow the psychologist to access his mental health.
Also worth noting are Farid's requirements for who, exactly, The Other, should be. Anyone can apply to be The Other, or perhaps you'd like to nominate a friend. (The Other will not be picked by Farid, rather he will be chosen by Farid's psychologist, a neuroscientist, and the gallery's director.) But there are some specifics. Farid is looking for a heterosexual male, who must be in a relationship.
The relationship part is ostensibly to provide a bit more narration and context for Farid's experience: it will require The Other to verbalise what he's doing more often. But there are two sides to the coin. On one hand, the interaction will probably be important to prevent him from going totally crazy. On the other hand, it just makes him seem like a creep who's interested maybe seeing some sex.
It's also interesting that Farid has requested an "Other" to be so similar to himself. Perhaps it's a logistical thing, so he can relate, somewhat, to the clothes and the behaviour. But especially when we've seen how the Oculus Rift can provide such unique experiences for inhabiting bodies quite different from our own (like this project that allowed people to explore what it would be like to be a different gender), it seems a missed opportunity for something way more interesting.
Last year, Farid orchestrated a test run of the project called Alone Together where he lived in a London gallery for 24 hours. Wearing an Oculus Rift, he watched a recording of someone else's day, going through what felt like quite tedious motions of life. In this version, people are seen hand-feeding him foods, but since Farid will have no human contact, it seems like this particular detail will require some exceptional advanced planning. The project says that the space Farid will live in includes a bed, a toilet and shower. Will he also have a pantry pre-stocked with all the food The Other has in his cupboard?
I have many many many more questions. Who will prevent him from falling down all he time? Where does Farid go when The Other leaves the house? How do you shower wearing an Oculus Rift? What if you need to poop before The Other has to go? Guess I'll have to wait for the documentary to see for myself. [Seeing I via The Verge]