New technologies are blurring the boundaries between the real and virtual world, but it remains uncertain as to whether they can improve peoples' lives. For example, Barcelona University scientists are working to link a human brain to a robot using skin electrodes and video goggles so users feel as though they are actually in the android body. A remote avatar can be used to travel without leaving home, but several senses need to work together to make the experience more realistic. Touching virtual objects, feeling their texture and weight, will make the digital world more natural and easier to live in.
The goal of another European project is to use virtual models to change the real world, making it more accessible. Scientists are using cameras and sensors to study how physically impaired people move, and using the data to simulate how they cope with everyday tasks. The models could enable industrial designers to better understand how safe and convenient new products will be, and better adapt them for people with physical limitations.
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