Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Alexander's Time Illusion Game

A direct link to the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxsu8BPK-S0

A direct link to the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ow6VC6NjPNk

This video for my entry "Time and Schizophrenia" did generate some controversy when it went up on YouTube a couple of weeks ago. Some people simply could not get used to the "echo" laid in to demonstrate the concept we're talking about in this video. Why do I have "echo" in quotes? Because that's not quite what's happening here. In addition to my voice, there are five other copies of my voice, each one offset a different amount, and if you watch the five shadowy mouths that are around my head you will see that each is also offset in the same way: starting at the bottom left mouth and working around the semi-circle clockwise, the first one you're seeing/hearing is one second early, the second is .5 seconds early, the third is .5 seconds late, the fourth is 1 second late, and the fifth is - you guessed it - 1.5 seconds late.

As I pointed out in the comments section at YouTube, these echoes do, of course, tie directly into what I'm talking about in this particular video and that's why they're there. If you, like some of the viewers on YouTube, find them too distracting, the answer is simple - turn your speakers down a bit. Because the main voice is 20 dB louder than the echoes, you'll still be able to hear what I'm saying but the echoes will be less noticeable. Same goes for the people who wish the echoes were louder, just turn your speakers up more and the echoes become more noticeable. :)

In this blog entry (Time and Schizophrenia), we looked at studies suggesting that schizophrenic symptoms could be related to the brain not properly "time-stamping" incoming information - a schizophrenic could be watching television, thinking about certain products, then within seconds seeing those products advertised. Did the TV read this person's mind? No. Their subconscious is seeing the products being mentioned, but other parts of their mind are lagging behind, giving them the disturbing impression that the TV knows what they are thinking and is responding to their thoughts!

Another of the things discussed in this blog entry was an experiment reported in a New Scientist article on Schizophrenia written by Douglas Fox. Here's two paragraphs from that article again:

In one experiment, healthy volunteers learned to play a video game in which they had to steer a plane around obstacles. Once people became used to the game, the researchers modified it to insert a 0.2-second delay in the plane's response to volunteers moving the computer mouse. After the modification, the players' performance initially worsened; but in time their brains compensated for the delay, to the extent that they actually perceived the movement of the mouse and the movement of the aircraft to take place simultaneously.

But the subjects' strangest experience occurred then the experimenters removed the delay and set the timing back to normal. Suddenly, the players were perceiving the plane to be moving before they consciously steered it with the mouse (Psychological Science, vol 12, p 532). That's uncannily similar to how people with schizophrenia describe feelings that they are somehow being controlled by another being.

The next day after the above video was posted, a YouTube user named Alexander, who calls himself WASDsweden on Youtube, posted a simple but effective java game he had just created to demonstrate what it would be like to play a video game where your input is delayed by .2 second. If you have java on your computer (most computers do) then you'll be able to play it right away: just click on this link to download the game.

Here's a screen shot from the game:

You are the red ship at the bottom of the screen, and you use your mouse to move back and forth across the screen trying to avoid collisions with the green aliens. A check-box at the bottom, when turned on, introduces a .2 second delay in the way the ship responds to the mouse. Try it!

I suspect you would have to play this game for quite a while in .2 second mode before the effect noted in the article above would come in to play, but this is really great that Alexander took it upon himself to create this demonstration. Bravo, WASDsweden!

To finish this entry, let's look at one more just-published video that ties into this conversation: it's based upon my text blog entry, "Time and Music". In this entry, we look at a split-screen video of the classic Canadian rock band Lighthouse, performing with different band members in different geographically-separated studios. My friend Paul Hoffert, keyboard player for the band, sent me this vintage clip and described how he had to play roughly 200 milliseconds ahead of the music he was hearing from the rest of the band (coincidentally, the same .2 seconds we're talking about here) in order to compensate for the latency introduced by the digital hookup that was available for this experimental performance. Trust me! This is not an easy thing to do, and I am fascinated every time I watch Paul playing in this video.

A direct link to the above video is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCKDcjBsw1Q

Enjoy the journey!

Next: Flow and the Now


Alexander said...

Thats for featuring my game, really appreciated it!

Anonymous said...

There is another funny effect of this game. It's a visual illusion. I see my laptopscreen stretch. Thought it's worth mentioning it.

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