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Oculus Rift Gender Swap aims to unravel identity, intimacy, respect

Jessica Conditt, @JessConditt
January 21, 2014
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Gender Swap is an experiment by interdisciplinary art collective Be Another Lab, as part of its open source art project, The Machine to be Another – and it uses the Oculus Rift to transport people into bodies of the opposite gender. Two participants strap on the Oculus Rift with first-person cameras mounted on top, and each person receives the visual input from the other person's camera. A woman will look down and see the body of the male participant, and he will see her body.

Both participants then begin moving, slowly and in synchrony, feeling their new bodies and moving with new limbs. They first agree on movements they won't make, but after that, they have to remain attuned to one another's motions to get the full gender-swapping effect. Watch a video of Gender Swap in action below the break – heads up for nudity.

The Machine to be Another has spawned multiple Oculus Rift projects, including some where one person tells a story of hardship, body issues or joy while the other participant is in his or her skin.

"Designed as an interactive performance installation, the 'Machine' offers users the possibility of interacting with a piece of another person's life story by seeing themselves in the body of this person and listening to his/her thoughts inside their mind," Be Another Lab explains. With Gender Swap, Be Another Lab aims to "investigate issues like gender identity, queer theory, feminist technoscience, intimacy and mutual respect."


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