As Gary, a 47-year-old public servant’s heart slows down, he sees the crowd start to mellow out. But what he sees may not be what is really there. His therapist quickly tells him that the audience’s reaction might not have anything to do with him. But Gary worries he doesn’t have all the answers. Again his therapist reassures him that it’s ok to not know everything, no one does. Removing his headset Gary realized the audience was simulated.
Gary is suffering from what most of the world suffers with: fear of public speaking or social situations. Gary’s therapist simulated an artificial world for him to “practice” in, to help him overcome his social phobia. Many researchers are now, as Benedict Carey “populating digital worlds with autonomous, virtual humans that can evoke the same tensions as in real-life encounters.” Was James Cameron onto something with his movie Avatar? In the long run I don’t think that we will be that far off from having our own Avatar. I think because of the cost of having your own Avatar only the elite wealthy would be able to afford them. Could our own Avatar’s stop us from aging? Is this the medical “cure” for humans to live forever, in an Avatar world?
Right now researchers are using the Avatar headset to help people overcome phobias which I think is brilliant. I have a fear of public speaking and if I went to a class once a week where I practiced public speaking with my simulated audience, I think it would do a world of good. I used to go to the Art Institute in Seattle where I had to give a presentation three days a week. Once I left AI, I lost practice in public speaking and I once again became afraid. This is where an Avatar could come in handy, to practice what you fear or to confront what you fear. Read the full article at NYTimes.com.