"Me, Myself & My Avatars (or remapping the homunculus)" is a virtual reality experience that deals with the meaning of avatars in virtual reality and wants to explore the chances and limits that lie in their use. It is centrally concerned with the extensibility and mutability of the homunculus, a mapping located in the neurocortex of the movements and sensations experienced by the body. This mapping is not only biased because the regions of the body with more nerve endings or connections in the brain are mapped larger than those that are less sensitive. But it has also long been known to be variable.
This ability of the human brain is what Lanier et al. call "homuncular flexibility". Not only does it allow us to identify with an avatar's body in virtual reality in the first place, but the homunculus can furthermore adapt bodies that differ significantly from the human form. For example, one can learn to handle a third arm or a tail surprisingly quickly.
These relationships are explored in our project using today's technical means and made tangible through implementation in the Unity game engine. Based on the research results of Lanier et al., three different playable non-human avatars were developed for this purpose: one with additional limbs, one consisting of multiple bodies, and one to control the environment.
The experience was developed by the virtual reality collective PRESS [ST]ART consisting of virtual reality experience designer Lena Biresch, 3D artist Tore Nobiling and puppeteer and creative coder Nico Parisius. The prototypes were created during a research residency at Schaubude Berlin in the summer of 2021, and the project was completed by spring 2022, supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste and Bundesverband bildender Künstlerinnen und Künstler with funds from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media within the program NEUSTART KULTUR. The first presentation took place on April 9, 2022 at the Glaserei. (https://www.heddahummel.de/projects/studio-glaserei/) in Hamburg.