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A new lab studies what it is like to be an avatar

A new lab studies what it is like to be an avatar

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We may soon have avatars.

Soon avatars may make social networks even more engaging than they already are. In the future, if more people spend time in virtual reality, how will this influence them? That's a question a newly renovated Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford wants to know.

"We're trying to really leverage the resources of the lab to do good for society," Stanford's Jeremy Bailenson said in a statement. "A lot of our studies now are geared toward putting people, everyday citizens, in situations that they wouldn't be in otherwise."

Bailenson thinks its important for the future. Since he says children spend twice as much time playing video games than they do reading.

"I truly believe that the amazing psychological experience of being transported to a virtual space that we do here at Stanford is going to be in most people's homes in the coming years," Bailenson added.

Here are some of the experiments that have already gone down in the lab:

  • Chopping down a virtual tree made the participants more likely to recycle paper.
  • If people are shown photos of how they may look when they are older, they will save up for retirement.
  • If people are shown that they put on weight, they'll make sure to work out more.

That makes sense. The brain can be fooled into thinking these digital events are real.

According to IEEE, if avatars and social media began to merge, this would happen:

It's only a matter of time before these two trends—realistic avatars and social media—intersect. As more people gain experience with avatars, and as the technology for enriching them improves, we can expect avatars to play far bigger roles in communications. Evidence suggests that the use of avatars could profoundly alter our social behaviors and work performance—for better or worse.

Photo: L.A. Cicero

via Take a tour of the virtual future at Stanford

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Boonsri Dickinson

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Boonsri Dickinson is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has written for Discover, The Huffington Post, Forbes, Nature Biotech, Technewsdaily.com, Techstartups.com and AOL. She's currently a reporter for Business Insider. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure