Okay, so people can't actually, permanently swap bodies (yet), but this is still completely awesome. In 2008, scientists conducted an experiment involving participants of both genders along with wooden mannequins. The (human) test subjects wore head-mounted displays (HMDs) that received a feed from two CCTV cameras, which were mounted to show the POV of a mannequin. The HMDs projected a separate, slightly different image on each eye, giving "a true stereoscopic image", so that basically, they were seeing things the same as you always do, assuming you have two functional eyes. The experimenters stroked both the mannequin and the participant's bellies with a dowel rod. They found that when participants were looking down at their selves, where their respective body should be, and saw the mannequin instead, and felt the rod stroking their abdomen the same time as it was happening to that mannequin, they perceived themselves to have body-swapped with said mannequin. When the mannequin was threatened with a knife, it caused a heightened skin conductivity response, but that same response was weaker when they threatened the subjects' actual bodies. They repeated these experiments with pairs of subjects, mounting cameras on each of their heads and asking them to shake hands. The subjects believed that they were in the body of whomever they shook hands with, regardless of race, gender, or height. However, when they tried to convince the participants that they were a life-sized green rectangular box, the illusion failed. (Apologies to anyone who wanted to live as a Companion Cube.)
The possibilities this experiment brings up shouldn't take much imagination. Well, beyond all the fun sex things, I guess it does. Here are some of the scientists' ideas:
“The present findings could have groundbreaking industrial and clinical applications. Experiencing swapping bodies with other individuals could provide a valuable tool for research on body image disorders or self-identity in social psychology. Likewise, experiencing ‘becoming’ a humanoid robot in tele-robotics and feeling ownership of simulated bodies in virtual reality applications would probably enhance user control, realism, and the feeling of ‘presence’.”
So there you go. This experiment will help us pilot robots from a distance. How much cooler do you want things to be?
Note: This was originally meant for Cracked. It may be there someday. If it's there now, then know that I made no profit.