Researchers at Sussex University’s Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science have designed a virtual reality headset, with the intention of creating a simulation that tricks the brain into thinking it’s in the midst of a psychedelic experience.
According to Inverse:
With the Hallucination Machine, the researchers write, they are able to “simulate visual hallucinatory experiences in a biologically plausible and ecologically valid way.” The tool, which, unlike a drug, does not directly alter the person’s neurophysiology, combines virtual reality and machine learning. When a person wears it, they are immersed in “hallucinations” by watching 360-degree panoramic videos of video scenes with a VR head-mounted display. These videos are modified with an algorithm called Deep Dream, a computer program created by Google engineer Alexander Mordvintsev that modifies natural images to reflect images categorized by a neural network.
The VR headset allows researchers to turn the real world into a hallucination, without any side effects (or high). Using tech based on Google’s Deep Dream, the hope is that this program will help gather data, allowing a new understanding of what happens to the mind when in such an altered state that time and space are not key factors to holding reality together.
The study is still quite a work in progress, as similar to Deep Dream, the program used in the VR has a curious amount of canine visuals.
Postdoctoral research fellow David Schwartzman of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science states:
“One thing people always ask us is why there are so many dogs. The short answer is we don’t know,” he told the Times.
The majority state that the visual effects from the VR tend to be most similar to what’s experienced on mushrooms (psilocybin).