Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

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CLD
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Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby CLD » Wed May 01, 2013 5:59 pm UTC

First off, I know there is a Fictional Science subforum. I'd like to hear how far science could take this idea in real life, preferably sometime within the next thousand years.

The idea:
Download every bodily sense (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, balance, hunger, etc.) but not any part of a person's thoughts into some sort of gadget.
Upload that gadget's data to another person (or the same person at a different time) to experience that original experience (sort of like watching a movie).
This could possibly even be done "live" via the Internet.

The implications:
I, someone with little musical talent, could experience being the lead singer/musician in a rock concert, if that singer/musician uploaded that experience. I could see Niagra Falls "first-person" without going there. I could be another gender (not that I personally want to experience that). If I was blind, I might be able to see. Note: If the premise of this idea worked, would this logically follow? The possibilities are endless.

Issues:
Privacy and spying on someone by uploading their life without their permission. Who really cares until we decide whether this is even possible.

So, the question I ask is: How could this be done? Would it be easier to capture and compile individual senses somehow or is there a certain part of the brain that would actually supply access to every sense? What do y'all think?
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Dr. Willpower
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby Dr. Willpower » Wed May 01, 2013 7:38 pm UTC

CLD wrote:So, the question I ask is: How could this be done? Would it be easier to capture and compile individual senses somehow or is there a certain part of the brain that would actually supply access to every sense? What do y'all think?


Well I am very far from informed on this topic. But here goes some reasoning about what I do know or at least suspect to be true.

Brains are analog devices. If we assume that everyone has the same eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc, we can't make too much assertion about how each brain will experience the same input. This is because the brain processes information based on the amount of certain neurochemicals available to it (serotonin, GABA, dopamine, glucose, many others). When people take a psychoactive chemical that changes the amount of these neurochemicals they report different perceptions of sensation. The experimental proof of this is people taking drugs and hallucinating.

If you don't consider that, you can consider the issue that not everyone has the same sensory organs. Some people can experience things in higher detail, and others in lower detail. The variability of this is probably not too much, some kind of gaussian distribution could be assumed in place of actual data.

So, the only way I could see your idea to be possible would be if digital human memory were possible, and then those digital memories could be moved from brain to brain, recorded in high detail, but always through the lens of the mind recording them.

Edit: On second thought, you could always modify human beings. If you did you could just give everyone fully prosthetic bodies (like in Ghost in the Shell) with identical sensory organs. Since these organs would be digital you could probably record their outputs and resubmit them to a brain as many times as you liked.

What this equates to saying is that without a full understanding of the human body it will be very difficult to make progress in this field. The research required is constantly being conducted, but will take a very long time as killing humans is out of the question and few people volunteer to be modified.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby PossibleSloth » Wed May 01, 2013 8:18 pm UTC

First off, different senses are, in fact, processed in different parts of the brain.

Technology-wise, for the setup you're suggesting, I think collecting the data will be the hardest part. We have the technology now to input (simple) sensory data directly into the brain (see cochlear implants). Reading brain activity, on the other hand, is typically done either with fMRI, which has nowhere near the resolution you'd require or by implanting electrodes in the areas you want to capture, which in this case would be a pretty substantial chuck of the cortex. It might be doable, but the person being recorded would have a huge bundle of wires coming out of a hole in their skull.

The main problem with this idea is that the person receiving the data wouldn't be controlling the body their sense data is coming from. This would be a hugely disorienting sensation and would cause severe motion sickness. The "inputs" and "outputs" of the brain are not as simple as you might think, and a lot is going on between the two that you aren't even aware of. For example, there is a circuit between your eyes and the semicircular canals in your ears so that, when you turn your head, your eyes turn in the other direction automatically to compensate (try it!).

So, basically, as Dr. Willpower said, you'd have to wait for digital human memories to become a thing and then just transfer after the fact.

CLD
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby CLD » Wed May 01, 2013 8:23 pm UTC

PossibleSloth wrote:The main problem with this idea is that the person receiving the data wouldn't be controlling the body their sense data is coming from. This would be a hugely disorienting sensation and would cause severe motion sickness.
Yeah, you'd probably want to be strapped into a chair or something to avoid hurting yourself convulsing trying to move the new body. I did think about this, but just about how annoying it would be to want to look left, but being at the mercy of the recorder's inclination to look left. The motion sickness seems like a very possible outcome, at least until one gets used to the sensation.
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Episode 1 - Silent Square
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed May 01, 2013 8:24 pm UTC

The technology you are talking about is science fiction at this point in time. We don't have anything that remotely approximates it.
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CLD
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby CLD » Wed May 01, 2013 8:27 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:The technology you are talking about is science fiction at this point in time. We don't have anything that remotely approximates it.
I assumed this was the case, but we can still talk about the vague challenges and goals associated with making it in a reality. I put it in this forum because I'm not interested in answers that aren't at least somewhat based in reality.

Edit: I just remembered that there's something like this in the movie Minority Report. Maybe that's where my idea for this originally came from. Edit 2: Except those images were fabricated, at least partially.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby Diadem » Wed May 01, 2013 10:03 pm UTC

Such a technique is used in the Commonwealth Saga series of books by Peter F. Hamilton. It is used, of course, mainly for pornography.

I don't know if such a technology will ever go out of the realm of science fiction, but if it ever does, I am pretty sure Peter F. Hamilton got the primary use for such a technology right.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby mfb » Wed May 01, 2013 11:10 pm UTC

You could start with audio and video. Those can be captured and replayed externally, even with current technology. Motion sickness would be a serious issue for the visual inputs (but see below).
Taste and smell might be possible to record and reproduce externally at some point in the future.
A realistic external simulation for our tactile sense (for the whole body) and our sense of balance looks hard to impossible. You cannot simulate a free fall, for example, without a free fall. That would require to manipulate neurons in the brain, and on the level of individual neurons, every brain is different...

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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby CLD » Thu May 02, 2013 2:52 am UTC

I don't believe you can't simulate a free fall without a free fall. I've had some dreams with believable free falls.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby idobox » Thu May 02, 2013 2:11 pm UTC

Also, "strange days", where it also used mainly for pornography.

Izawwlgood wrote:The technology you are talking about is science fiction at this point in time. We don't have anything that remotely approximates it.

we have the basic technology. Cortex implants for vision and brain-stem implants for hearing. We also have retina and cochlea implants that do not connect directly with the brain.

The resolution is still pretty crappy (hundreds of pixels), but it improves every day.

You could capture sound and pictures externally as being said. To avoid motion sickness, you could reconstruct data on the fly, so that when you move your eyes, the picture actually changes.

Recording somatic inputs, on the other hand, will be a nightmare. Nerve fibres grow and connect to different areas randomly, which means that the fibre that connects to the temperature sensor in the left big toe will send its signal to a different area for different people. Actually, we spend our first few months learning which part of the body each sensation comes from, and when nerves are severed and grow back, it all feels weird.
Recording that data will require a lot (at least a billion) of electrodes, probably in the pons or the spine, and considerable efforts of calibration (count thousands of hours), both for the recorder and the "spectator"
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby Diadem » Thu May 02, 2013 4:02 pm UTC

Well, you could define a standard format, and your brain would eventually grow to recognize it. You will still need those countless of hours to learn it, but you'd only have to do it once, not every time you want to watch a new lifecast.

More realistically is probably to ignore neurons altogether. Implants that record video and audio are already possible, implants that record tactile information should be possible as well. Playback can be done with special glasses and headphones as well as a tactile suit.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby Trebla » Fri May 03, 2013 2:29 pm UTC

It's so far beyond our current understanding that it's just hard to predict if it will ever be possible or, if so, when. But it's interesting to think about it. As mentioned, strictly recording/playback at the neural level seems untenable because of "hardware" differences between every brain.

However, we can read with current technology (with low fidelity) what parts of an individual's brain are triggered by sense inputs. "Learning" a person will become faster simply as processing speed improves. What may take thousands of hours now, may only take dozens as the fidelity of reading improves and the ability to process the information read. At that point, the inputs from the "recorded" person could be translated into similar inputs for the target... this is much more complex than the term "recording" implies.

That leads to the difficulty in injecting these inputs into the target brain in the right order and timeframe for the experience to be interpreted. I don't know much about this area, but as mentioned, we can directly introduce neural inputs. What are the barriers preventing improved inputs? Is there a technical/physical reason that such a thing is impossible? Or is it just economically unfeasible? If the latter, assuming a constant improvement in technology per dollar, that barrier will eventually decay.

So the two barriers, reading and writing, neither looks to be technically "impossible" (granted, I only have casual interest in technology advances and little to no interest in medical science, so I'm mostly talking out my butt), but as to when it will happen or if it will ever be economically feasible, or if it would even be desirable to record someone rather than simulate the inputs without the recording process... pretty speculative. I would be very surprised if it took another 1000 years from now...

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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby Izawwlgood » Fri May 03, 2013 3:19 pm UTC

idobox wrote:we have the basic technology. Cortex implants for vision and brain-stem implants for hearing. We also have retina and cochlea implants that do not connect directly with the brain.
It's the most basic of basic. Like, we have the ability to implant a roughly 100x100 pixel spread view on the blind. I'm not sure how good cochlear implants are, I know going from virtually deaf to 'hearing something' is great, but I don't think it's 'virtually deaf' to 'full range of hearing'. Not sure on that though. As for our ability to read someone else's perceptions, I'm under the impression that it's the vaguest of vague; we can determine, if a subject is sitting in an fMRI machine, and has been trained for a few hours with a battery of images, if they are, for example, looking at a red ball or a tree. We cannot take a few second EEG, and go "Aha! They are listening to Beethovens Sixth while staring at the ruby gemstone necklace of a lace wearing patron! Let us recapitulate the experience on the viewfinder now!"

Most basic of basic. You guys are talking about petabytes of information being immersively and seamlessly shared, when the field is rejoicing at the fact that they've produced what amounts to this. Baby steps, and it's improving, to be sure, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby idobox » Fri May 03, 2013 3:46 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
idobox wrote:we have the basic technology. Cortex implants for vision and brain-stem implants for hearing. We also have retina and cochlea implants that do not connect directly with the brain.
It's the most basic of basic. Like, we have the ability to implant a roughly 100x100 pixel spread view on the blind. I'm not sure how good cochlear implants are, I know going from virtually deaf to 'hearing something' is great, but I don't think it's 'virtually deaf' to 'full range of hearing'. Not sure on that though. As for our ability to read someone else's perceptions, I'm under the impression that it's the vaguest of vague; we can determine, if a subject is sitting in an fMRI machine, and has been trained for a few hours with a battery of images, if they are, for example, looking at a red ball or a tree. We cannot take a few second EEG, and go "Aha! They are listening to Beethovens Sixth while staring at the ruby gemstone necklace of a lace wearing patron! Let us recapitulate the experience on the viewfinder now!"

Most basic of basic. You guys are talking about petabytes of information being immersively and seamlessly shared, when the field is rejoicing at the fact that they've produced what amounts to this. Baby steps, and it's improving, to be sure, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

I'm not claiming this kind of thing will be possible anytime soon. We have kites, and we're talking of building supersonic jets.

Cochlear implants are very limited by the surgery (the cochlea is a spiral in a hollow bone), and cross talking between electrodes. I think the best you can achieve is a dozen different tones, which is enough to recognize vowels and categories of consonants, but not enough to tell the difference between "d" and 't' for example.
Retina implants are improving fast. I applied and was rejected last year for a project to build a megapixel retina implants. Cortical implants are very rare because of the risks of brain surgery. Anyway, this is exciting technology, and I wouldn't be surprised to see people with better than normal vision in my lifetime.

It is possible to reconstruct what people see because the primary visual cortex is topologically identical to the retina. That being said, the signal is low resolution, very noisy, and in black and white, but with better technology, especially better resolution, we could see colors. Coding of auditory input is still not well understood. Somatosensory regions of the cortex are mapped to parts of the body, but I don't know if we can tell between different types of sensation. Smell and taste are going to be a nightmare.

Trebla wrote:That leads to the difficulty in injecting these inputs into the target brain in the right order and timeframe for the experience to be interpreted. I don't know much about this area, but as mentioned, we can directly introduce neural inputs. What are the barriers preventing improved inputs? Is there a technical/physical reason that such a thing is impossible? Or is it just economically unfeasible? If the latter, assuming a constant improvement in technology per dollar, that barrier will eventually decay.

Putting electrodes is not trivial. If you have only extracellular electrodes, it is not easy to generate the right potential inside the cell, and a variety of strategies are used and investigated. You also have the issue of electrode corrosion, that some people try to solve by having special waveforms of current (to avoid oxydo-reduction powered by the current), and the issue of cross talking, your electrode influencing stuff to a distance.
Intracellular electrodes or clamps solve that problem, but as much as I know, they need to be positioned by hand.
With high density of electrodes, you encounter other issues, like the fact that you need a lot of thin insulated wires, which means rigidity. And the brain is soft, squishy and changes shape. You don't want your implant to break or damage the brain.
And if the neurons you want to connect to are not on the first few layers, you have to find a way to put your electrode there without destroying everything in your way.

All in all, we have a lot of challenges to tackle, but with all the exciting nanotechnology stuff, it seems to me we will one day be able to solve them. But it's a formidable task, and I don't expect to see GITS level technology in my lifetime.
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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby ThirdParty » Sat May 04, 2013 2:55 am UTC

PossibleSloth wrote:This would be a hugely disorienting sensation
That strikes me as an understatement.

I'm pretty sure the viewer would be functionally blind. Unexpected saccades, and the absence of intended ones, would happen too frequently for him to make any sense of the visual field, and in any event any object of interest at any given time would probably be too far from the center of the field and too out-of-focus to be anything more than an unrecognizable blur.

I'm also concerned that the lifecaster's performance of everyday actions such as walking would induce unbearable gargalesis in the feeler. The inability to tickle oneself requires being unsurprised by one's own movements, doesn't it?

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Re: Reality Sharing aka Lifecasting Extreme

Postby MrPablo » Sat May 04, 2013 6:19 am UTC

Regardless of the technical impossibilities of attaining such a thing, just imagine how disastrous this technology could be if misused. Currently, you can download a movie from a dubious website and maybe, if you're careless, get some annoying spyware on your computer or maybe the wrong movie. Oops, now instead of experiencing my dream porn lifecast, I'm suddenly experiencing the wonderful sensation of being slowly murdered!

This is made worse by the following fact: in order to avoid having your body convulsing out the 10th floor of a building everytime you "watch" a lifecast, one would likely need some sort of mechanism for immobilizing the body during these lifecasts. Damn, trapped.


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