When you’re a kid, everything seems huge. Teachers tower over you; playgrounds stretch on to infinity. Now, researchers have found a way to make grownups feel the same way. By placing volunteers in virtual reality, scientists are helping adults see the world through the eyes of a child.
Virtual reality is more than an illusion. To enter it, people put on full-body suits that track their movements and goggles that display an artificial world in which they have a virtual body. If their virtual and real movements sync up, their computer-generated bodies start to seem real. Previous research has shown that subjects begin to feel like their body has changed into the simulated figure, even if it is different from their own body; volunteers placed into the body of a teenage girl, for example, “felt it” when her mother slapped her computer-generated representation. But scientists did not know how this virtual body “ownership” affected people’s perception of the world around them and whether this could help people relate with others unlike themselves.
To find out, computer scientist Mel Slater of the University of Barcelona in Spain and colleagues placed adult volunteers into a virtual outdoor scene in which they did not have a computer-generated body. They were asked to estimate the sizes of six different cubes within the scene and were told whether their guesses were too big, too small, or correct. Later, they reentered the scene and repeated the exercise with three cubes, without feedback from the researchers. Their size estimates without a virtual body were noted.
For the rest of the story: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/07/virtual-reality-perspective/