Experience your own Death in Virtual Reality
A VR experience simulates cardiac arrest and guides you through your own passing. How does it feel?
The question whether there is life after death is as old as mankind. Artist Shaun Gladwell tries to answer it in virtual reality. In the VR experience “Passing Electrical Storms”, people experience a virtual simulation of their own dying process – from cardiac arrest to brain death and beyond.
Dying in virtual reality: what does it feel like?
Gladwell's VR experience is currently on display at the Melbourne Now art exhibition in Australia. Those wishing to lie on the virtual deathbed lie on a hospital bed with VR goggles on their heads instead and are connected to the heart rate monitor standing next to it.
Its Actually pretty hectic. Doctors trying to revive you, vibrating bed and floating into space.
TikToker Marcus Crook describes the experience in an interview: “As you put on the goggles you see yourself laying on the bed from above, so it really changed the experience from just the traditional VR as you are able to step outside yourself from a different perspective”.
Virtual cardiac arrest can cause panic
In the VR experience, he said, his virtual body goes into cardiac arrest, the bed vibrates, and doctors try to revive him. “It doesn’t work, then you float up past some, into space, and yeah, it keeps going, but I won’t spoil it all,” Crook described.
The VR experience, he says, has inspired him to think hard about the afterlife. At the same time, he understands why it might cause fear and panic in some visitors:inside.
“When they put the heart rate monitor on your finger and tell you to raise your hand if you want to quit, it does give you a slight sense of anxiety about what’s to come,” Crook says.
It was an uncomfortable feeling to witness the first flatline, the resuscitation by the doctors and nurses, and the vibrations of the bed added to the experience, he says.
Life and death in VR
Gladwell's “out-of-body” VR experience is not the only one of its kind. In 2017, Dutch designer Frank Kolkman attempted to recreate a near-death experience in virtual reality. To do so, he built an elaborate machine.
A robot equipped with cameras slowly moves away from the back of a test subject on rails. The test person wears a VR headset in which the robot's camera view is embedded in a VR experience and accompanied by spatial audio. The goal is to make the VR experience feel like sliding out of your own body.
David Glowacki developed “Isness-D” after a near-death experience. The VR experience is designed to create a sense of transcendence. A study showed that the virtual reality experience is comparable to LSD or psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms.
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