#780: Invoking Psychedelic Embodiment Experiences in VR with Radix Motion’s “MEU” Asynchronous Communication Platform

sarah-hashkesRadix Motion is creating a trippy, asynchronous communication platform called MEU that starts to play with our experience of embodiment. CEO Sarah Hashkes is a cognitive neuroscientist who previously studied psychedelics through the lens of a predictive coding model of the brain where there’s a fusion of our prior experiences that have a direct interaction in shaping our current perceptions of the world. There are error codes between our expectations and our sensory experiences which shape our experience, but also provide a sense of novelty within the experience. Hashkes is applying these types of cognitive neuroscience insights to your sense of embodiment within a virtual reality experience in order to give a slightly trippy and psychedelic experience of our embodied interactions.

matt-hoeI was also joined by CTO Matthew Hoe, who talked about the desire for creating an asynchronous communication platform since both Hashkes’ and his family is overseas in a different time zone that doesn’t always make synchronous communication feasible. He talks about recording an embodied ritual that he used to do with his mother, and then her reaction in receiving it. But he also thinks that people are going to eventually move away from using emojis or reaction GIFS in order to record their own embodied dances and rituals that are communicate their feelings in the moment, very much in a similar way that people use selfies in order to communicate their current emotional state.

We talk about embodiment, what they were doing to create this slightly psychedelic trippy feeling to their experience, the risks of invoking body dysphoria if people are aware of creating mismatches between the body schemas stored in the cerebellum, motor cortex, and sensory cortex, creating technological interactions and user experiences that are body-centric, and how they hope that embodied communication can help us to escape the social media void that we find ourselves within in today’s society. Definitely keep an eye out for where MEU goes next as they’re really onto something that’s super compelling.


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Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.412] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR podcast. So this next conversation that I have from the Awaken Futures Summit is with Sarah Haskies and Matthew Ho of Radix Motion. They're creating a messenger platform called Miu. So Sarah has an interesting backstory where she's coming from cognitive neuroscience and looking at this predictive coding model of the mind and She was really studying these models and theories to describe the brain through the lens of psychedelics and what happens to your mind when you're on psychedelics is that you have these predictions of what is going to happen and then you have this offset and this error code that gets into your mind. Because it's difficult to do a lot of research into psychedelics, she's kind of moved into some of her cognitive neuroscience-based research and starting to create these more trippy psychedelic type of experience by modulating and tweaking your embodiment in very subtle and interesting ways that make it feel like you're having an interesting or novel experience with your body. And you're having new ways of using your embodiment to describe and express yourselves in different ways. And both Sarah and Matthew come from overseas, and so they don't have an opportunity to do real-time communications. And so they're focusing on creating this asynchronous communication platform where they're able to capture these little movements of themselves and to be able to send it to their friends and family. So it's a very fascinating experience that I had with Miu, and it's kind of hard to describe until you've actually had it. The best I could describe it is that it's a little bit of a psychedelic experience with your own sense of embodiment, and Sarah Haskiss goes into a lot of the detail into the cognitive neuroscience theory behind all of that. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Sarah and Matthew happened on Sunday, May 19th, 2019, at the Wiccan Future Summit in San Francisco, California. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:02:09.765] Sarah Hashkes: I'm Sarah Haskiss and I'm technically CEO of Radix Motion, but my co-founder is here and we're both creating Miu, which is a messenger platform for VR that lets you send your hugs and dances along with very psychedelic filters that help you communicate your inner self.

[00:02:29.457] Matthew Hoe: Hi, I'm Matthew Ho and I'm CTO at Radix Motion and we're creating Miu.

[00:02:34.817] Kent Bye: Maybe you could each give me a bit of your background and your context and your journey into virtual reality.

[00:02:42.426] Sarah Hashkes: So I come from a cognitive neuroscience background where I was researching psychedelics until I found it too hard to actually get the data I wanted when I totally randomly tried virtual reality. And honestly, I was the biggest skeptic because I'm very embodied. I've done a lot of martial arts and dance, and I didn't believe that putting a screen on my face would change my reality until I did. And it was so impactful that I really pivoted my research and opened the first immersive VR in the motor control department of Donders. That was I was studying and started to see how I can use this technology to teach movement, how it impacts our sense of physical self. What happens if I put people inside of different types of avatars? What happens if I give people false feedback of their movements? And out of all this research, this idea that we can mutate our bodies to actually create different selves came along and that we could share these different parts with other people became a very core factor of what I'm building now.

[00:03:54.289] Matthew Hoe: Growing up, I was always into creating computer graphics and using computer technology to enrich my education. After that, I got into film because I was very much into empathy and creating these low-level feedback loops between humans, which is when I discovered VR. I realized that empathy starts in the body, you know, these feedback loops start in our body between us humans. And I was doing work in virtual characters and kind of these virtual interactive chatbots for a while and creating these really interesting interactions between virtual humans and the community, which is when I met Sarah.

[00:04:34.662] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, we're at the Awakened Futures Summit, which is put on by Consciousness Hacking. And so, it's the cross-section of psychedelics, meditation, and technology. And so, you said you were researching psychedelics from more of a cognitive science perspective. And so, what was it about virtual reality technologies that you felt were kind of equated to psychedelics in that way?

[00:04:54.543] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, so my only published work is actually a predictive coding model of what psychedelics does to your brain. And I really try to advocate for people reading a little bit about this predictive coding framework that explains our brain as a prediction machine that's constantly doing calculations with two sources of information. Whatever is coming from our body, the sensory input, But also the other source of information is what we've already learned. That's called sort of priors. And doing a statistical calculation based on these two sources of information to create our perception. So even when you see a cat right in front of you, you're not just seeing the cat, you're seeing all the cats you've already seen before coming together in this model. And basically these correlations, or playing with these statistical correlations, are what you can do both with psychedelics and VR. In this model of psychedelics that I wrote about, the theory is that these receptors, these 5HT2A receptors, are sitting on our predictive top-down models. So we're lowering the threshold of activation for these predictive models, which causes your brain, instead of thinking in these big categories, to start thinking in more detailed categories, which also creates more prediction error. Because it doesn't matter what you're predicting now, it's going to be too narrow to actually deal with all this incoming information from your body. And then there's all these different methods that your brain can deal with this added surprise and prediction error. Some of them are hallucinations, others can just be when you move you're actually reducing prediction error because your motor cortex has less of these 5HT2A receptors. So this is sort of psychedelics and with VR I can start manipulating the statistics of what's coming in from your body and seeing how similar this is to your regular predictions. So basically, again, this idea of prediction error, which is basically what your brain can't explain. Whatever your brain or a specific brain area can't explain, it sort of shoves up into a higher area that tries to explain it. And with VR I can suddenly shove in a lot of prediction error to various parts of your brain by just changing the statistical correlations. This is what I was doing with my research. Like you lift your right hand but you see your left hand move. And what we're doing now with with Miu is we're giving you these filters that are overlays of your body that are connected to your movement. So when you move your hand really fast, or basically based on the speed of your hand, your particles fly away from you. So we're creating new types of statistical correlations that don't exist in your daily life. So again, your brain starts to predict that. And in that way, we're sort of creating remaps for our neural network and inducing plasticity.

[00:07:45.814] Kent Bye: Yeah, that's amazing and when you're in the experience you have this embodiment and you're moving around and you have kind of like in some ways it feels like it's that novelty or surprise or delight because you have a sense of like I can see myself and see the traces of my humanity there but it's sort of a way of an embodiment that is beyond anything that I've seen before and so the idea of what you're saying is that as you have kind of deviations from what our predictive model predicts then it creates these new neural pathways or allows a bit of flexibility for us to be able to still see the deeper patterns but in a new way where it expands our mind in some way.

[00:08:19.595] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, exactly. And the reason, so in the experience, at the beginning we just had a mirror because we can have mirrors in VR and do that type of fake calculation, put another camera. But then actually after trying a different experience that Isaac Cohen, who's also working with us, Khabibo, showed me, I realized that this has to be a 3D mirroring system. It's just silly for me to take away that level of information that I have, where in virtual reality I can give you a 3D mirror, I should. So we're doing that. And another reason for that is actually out of health concerns. There isn't, again, based on this research I was doing, When the different types of information, the proprioception information, isn't fitting our visual information regarding our bodies, our brain tends to believe what we're seeing is stronger than our proprioception and actually reduces the feeling and sensation that we get from our body. So if I give you even, I'm going to say the Oculus hands, that aren't exactly your hands, right? They're sort of hands, they're sort of where your hands should be, but they're not the exact shape. And now that's creating a competition between your own body skin, the model you have of yourself is now being overlaid with this model. And I have some concerns. What happens if you start using this for a long time? How is this going to affect you on a day-to-day basis? How is this going to affect your sensation with your own body? So in this experience, there's just two round sparkly balls that represent your hand movements in order not to conflict your own body model, basically.

[00:09:59.688] Kent Bye: So it's like the danger would be a kind of a dissociative effect of not having a full embodiment You go have a bunch of virtuality experiences without a full avatar But that creates these disconnections from your actual body when you come out. Is that what you're saying?

[00:10:11.118] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, if you do this for a long time, and there's things that this can be done that are actually very helpful. Research into, for instance, anorexia, right? They're using virtual reality to remodel what anorexia patients believe their body is. So if we can do this for the better, there's also a very big danger that this could impact us for the worse, and then we'd be very confused of weight. And I think both me and Matt, we've done a lot of embodied experiments on ourselves. And sometimes we come out of this, we're playing with like, oh, my hand was giant and mutated. And I come out and I'm like looking at my hand, like, oh, it's still a bit mutated. So long term, I think the brain's very plastic for short term. And you do anything once, it's probably likely to jump back to stable state. But if we're trying to create a product that people use, to communicate and play with maybe for a few times a week or on some type of basis. I want to do the most that I can to make sure that I don't interfere with their body model.

[00:11:06.014] Kent Bye: Yeah. I'm wondering if you could expand on some of those experiences that you've had by going into this experience and then what it feels like, like coming out or some of the other things that kind of stick out, creating this communication product and what you've experienced with it.

[00:11:17.649] Matthew Hoe: When I was young, I used to do this little goodbye dance with my mom, right, when I used to say goodbye to her at school. And I used to cross my arms in front of my chest and say, like, I love you, and I'd point at her. And it was this embodied ritual that I did for years and years, and it was really encoded in my body. And as I grew older, you know, I got embarrassed. I went to like middle school and high school and I was like, oh, I don't want to do that. I could tell my mom, you know, I was like, oh, okay, that's okay. But I could tell that she missed it. And I believe that a really big factor of virtual reality is putting yourself in different kinds of bodies. It can really put you in a different age, you know, a different age frame. and induce this playfulness with each other. And I created this embodied ritual, like, I love you, pointing at myself, crossing my arms, and pointing at the other person. And I created this for my mom in VR, and then I also sent it out to her as a gift. And when she saw it, she just burst out laughing, just this joyful laugh of this remembrance that, you know, this ritual that we had together in our bodies. And I really feel that Miu, virtual reality in general, but what we're building is really to that end. Bring playfulness, joy, and this information that we have stored in our bodies in our relationships to our everyday life.

[00:12:34.857] Kent Bye: Yeah, I remember meeting you at Oculus Connect 5 and I think you had like a prototype that you were showing and I didn't end up seeing that. I remember hearing the pitch and being a little like skeptical about this sort of asynchronous communication within VR. Just as a concept I felt like there's something about the synchrony of the power of VR is being co-located at the same time but it feels like you've been able to create this platform where you're able to look at yourself and as you see yourself you're able to almost like in the snapchat and instagram facial filters where you like see yourself and then you start to tap into a aspect of your body that may have always been there but it just allows you an access point to be able to tap into that part of your character but this was similar in that sense where now it's like these psychedelic looking embodiments that I am moving around in a way where I want to see what it looks like but at the end I feel like I'm like moving my body properly in ways that I don't normally move it. But the whole communication thing is interesting because it's like We don't necessarily have a visual language to be able to actually communicate with each other aside from emojis and reaction GIFs and I feel like there's a whole emergence of memes and meme culture and emojis and visual communications and reaction GIFs and just Using images to communicate a feeling that has some sort of connection to the culture but that in this way It's it's your body directly to be able to communicate I'm just curious to hear a little bit of like your thoughts of your thinking of where it is that now and where you see it going

[00:14:05.655] Sarah Hashkes: Yes, I think you put it in very eloquently. This is exactly how we see this, that instead of designers or cultural figures creating your memes, we want to empower people to create their own memes that are connected to their physicality, that when I get the red heart, I don't actually feel loved. I feel like, OK, somebody touched his finger. It's almost too easy. It's too reproducible. But when one of my partners records a dance for me and sends me his embodied self or their embodied self, it's so wow. It's somebody moved their body, sent me a thing that's specifically for me, for my emotional well-being. I love it. And this is what I specifically want to give to people within the social communication, what we need. is this type of mirroring games. This is how we grow up, this is how we play, and we don't have this in technology. You know, Snapchat gives us these facial filters that are cool and amazing, but it doesn't give us the ability to send a hug or a handshake, and that's where I'm hoping this goes. I really hope that when VR finally becomes mass-adopted, which, you know, hopefully we'll see soon, This will become a type of social platform that lets people communicate deeper parts of themselves and lets people communicate with their body. And I'm very curious what will emerge of this community. We could take a line of, this is the language. We could do that. But in some ways, I don't think we want to. We want to just give people tools and see what comes out of them.

[00:15:47.403] Matthew Hoe: Yes, I think both of you expressed kind of what we're getting at very well. I think a lot of today's media addiction comes from the fact that we're kind of skipping a step, right? It's just numbers. You get a like, a number of likes, and it kind of, it skips a step of the body, whereas before it was really like a smile. It was a unique expression. And I want people to be able to really, like Sarah was saying, be able to create. What does it mean, a love react, right? What does that really mean to you? And I want to gift it to you, and I don't only want to send it once. I want to say, this is my love for you, and I'm giving it to you. These movements, this is me, a part of me.

[00:16:26.666] Sarah Hashkes: This weird body. We have a lot of factors. It's really a type of simulation that we've created with these avatars that people can choose a lot of different parameters and then send that to their friends. Matt keeps talking to me about remixing. That's if you want to talk about the whole remixing factor.

[00:16:43.665] Matthew Hoe: Yeah, I think this remixability is very interesting, you know. JPEGs and GIFs are very portable, and so that's kind of the de facto remixability on the internet. But I really feel the future of remixing these memes is totally embodied. Taking these movements, remixing how the movement expresses through the body, you know, as you were saying, as you're giving a hug and your body explodes into a thousand different particles, as well as the movement itself. How can I take this love expression and, you know, meld it and give it back to you. And I think that's extraordinarily powerful moving forward and really where it needs to go for us to heal this social media void that I feel like a lot of people in my generation are feeling.

[00:17:26.425] Kent Bye: Yeah, I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about the neuroscience concept of embodied cognition and how you see this experience is trying to use some of the principles of embodied cognition.

[00:17:36.582] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, so I'm definitely heavily into this embodied cognition framework. When we look at what our brains are doing, a lot of it, a lot, a lot of it is movement data. We have this whole cerebellum that has the most neurons in our brain, and it's really the online movement of coordinating all these things that need to happen in order for us to move. There's this famous fish creature thing that when it stops swimming, it basically eats its own brain because it's not moving anymore. So brains are literally, it's called the motor chauvinist within the neuroscience community. Parts of the community that think that this is the main thing that brains are doing have to do with movement. and this whole motor control pathways. And there's a few different body models within our brain actually, a few different body schemas. One of them is in the cerebellum, the other is in the motor cortex, and the other is in the sensory cortex. And each of them can be a little bit different based on the inputs that you got and what your body is able to do. And what I'm really curious about and how can we start sort of learning from each other's body maps, right? How can I get your body proportions and just be inside of you for a second? Because very easily, when you send me these types of messages, I can just rotate and now I'm in you and doing these movements from your perspective and seeing the differences of like, oh, your arms are way longer than mine. that's usually my case, I'm pretty sure, which can really give us this very unique type of statistical understanding of each other. And even when we're developing this, I think we're learning a lot because, oh, we test with a very tall person and then the UX is not working so well because it's designed to be a bit too close. Our whole UX is body-centric. A lot of VR experience, they start out and they tell you, go over there. No, we don't do that. Our world comes to you. Everything is set around you, but specifically designed to sort of induce you to move. You need to stretch up to this button. None of the buttons on the controller do anything. This was sort of a design choice we had at the beginning. Our fingers, I feel, are over-utilized. When you look at this embodied cognition, the way we've interacted, the interfaces with technology have been through our fingers. So we've over adapted these fingers to constantly be moving and moving and create a type of ourselves that some, you know, it's been useful, but there's more of me than fingers. And basically that's what we're both trying to bring into this technology, a different type of UX that can create with your whole body. That's sort of.

[00:20:24.828] Kent Bye: And was there any particular challenges for implementing that sort of body-centric or what are some of the things that you had to overcome in order to do that since you don't have a lot of other people that have been thinking about it quite in that way. So in some ways you have to kind of like forge a new trail in a way that there hasn't been a lot of prior work in that way.

[00:20:42.095] Matthew Hoe: Yeah, I think that a big thing for me is, of course, balancing the line between usability and also encouraging people into different embodied states. You know, for instance, in one of the templates that we create, it encourages you to kind of open up, open up, right? Like Sarah was saying, sometimes we're encouraging people to, like, reach upwards. But also, I think the challenge of it is, I'm a strong believer in VR is for all bodies, right? And I think we've done a lot of user testing in that regard and really trying to make sure, you know, short people, tall people, you know, people perhaps only have access to one of their arms. And really balancing these two factors, I think, has been important in this process.

[00:21:23.398] Kent Bye: Yeah. And, uh, what are some of the other frontiers in terms of like either, cause it seems like you're very driven by the sort of cognitive science insights and research, but what's next in terms of using what you know about the brain and being able to kind of interface with how can modulate or play with either a deeper connection to our bodies or playing with plasticity or what type of other things do you imagine might be possible?

[00:21:48.363] Sarah Hashkes: I think that AI around these types of algorithms, the moment we're starting to connect humans' body movements to their emotional expressions and are able to sort of learn that on scale, right, any type of sort of neural network training requires so, so, so much data. And of course, we really, really care about our users' data. We come from like a Mozilla program. But something that we keep fantasizing about is maybe having sort of volunteers that want to train these types of machine learning algorithms that could be able to identify our body language and understand our moods in order to sort of help us and even mirror this back to us. Because a lot of the times, maybe my bodies know something, but high-level me doesn't. because we're so focused on other things sometimes. And having an AI, a lot of my friends are really terrified of this AI problem. It's gonna take over. But my deep belief is that if we create AIs with love and with the ability to not want a slave, maybe, then hopefully once a thing emerges, it will return this type of connection to us. And for that to happen, there needs to be, again, we are embodied creatures. These computers aren't. And we need to start thinking how we can train AI algorithms to understand what it means to actually have a body to begin with.

[00:23:13.525] Kent Bye: And I'm curious to hear from each of you what some of the either biggest open problems you're trying to solve or open questions that you're trying to answer.

[00:23:22.430] Sarah Hashkes: Open problem. I think so. Inverse kinematics. Oh my god. Inverse kinematics. I have three points this technology is currently giving me. Head in two hands, right? How can I maximize that to give you an emotional connection to this avatar? Something that's both visually enticing and still feels like it's you. A very big challenge. And you can see a lot of different products and things in VR solve it in different ways. But the moment it's not accurate, like if I give you elbows that aren't where your elbows are, your brain immediately detaches from that and goes like, wait, what? Or your body will start to adapt, actually. And you'll start to move into that, which is also a type of different problem. So for me, that's been a very big challenge, like thinking how can I maximize these three data points that for the first time in human communication, we have them, these three spatial locations of my hands and head, to maximize that to give a human impactful connection.

[00:24:22.543] Matthew Hoe: I think for me, a big problem that I'm trying to solve in both of us, we're both like transplants. We both come from faraway places and we have family and friends across the globe. And we noticed that a lot of VR right now is centered in synchronous communication, which is a little bit problematic for us because we have family across the globe, we're never awake at the same time. So that's where our focus on asynchronously communicating, sharing these memes across time is really important, as well as perhaps the ability to send these embodied memes asymmetrically, I think is very important for the future of the ecosystem. You know, bring your body to where they are. We, in this generation, and me and Sarah, and in our community, use VR a lot. And I'm sure as it grows, VR to VR will be very large. However, I do think that even though viewing these embodied memes that we create in VR and through motion capture systems is not quite as impactful within this predictive coding framework as in VR, our brain has an amazing ability to mirror these embodied systems even by just seeing it on a 2D plane. So really trying to bridge this gap between immersive mediums and your cell phone, for instance. When I sent that I love you movement to my mom, she didn't receive it in VR, but I know she felt it because she already had that in her body. So in a way, it was almost like activating those pathways, those networks within her, even though it was from VR to mobile. Yeah.

[00:25:54.235] Kent Bye: And because we are at the Awakened Futures Summit looking at the cross section between psychedelics and technology and these contemplative practices, I'm just curious to hear a little bit about your experience here at the summit and also how you personally see these intersections between all these three things, especially through the lens of cognitive science or through the lens of this communication platform that you're creating.

[00:26:17.007] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, I think, first of all, it's pretty amazing to feel less alone in this, right? We were in an incubator before and in the business world and people are just looking at us and like, you're doing what? Body hug? What? And here I feel people get it. They immediately, even if we're trying, they get what we're trying to create. And when they jump in this experience, they're more open to trying these things. And so that's been very fun to demo and to talk to people and connect on this level. And I guess the one thing that I feel is for me a little bit missing here is this word awakening. It's a very big word. And as I come from a very sort of scientific point of view, what I would like to know to have a agreed upon definition. What are we talking about? So within what we're building, I'm talking about larger bandwidths of communication between humans, very specifically defined. And there might be many other types of awakenings that we could do. And maybe also an increased bandwidth between myself, my body, and my visual system, too, with these visual feedbacks that I'm creating. So that's how I see it. And again, the combination with psychedelics, I took a lot of what I learned from my research into psychedelics to build also the feel of what you get. And again, it could be both amazing, amazing visuals. be able to give people, you know, there's a lot of amazing things about psychedelics and also there's some people that will never ever try them. My dad will never, not in a million years, try psychedelics, but he will try my VR experiences and get a little bit of a taste of what your brain is capable of, of this ability to take a totally different perspective and get a lot of prediction error and get a lot of novelty in your brain. I see this as a bit of a way to sort of open people's minds.

[00:28:15.438] Matthew Hoe: Yeah, very much along similar lines. Again, coming back to bring this to where people are. And again, you know, not everyone will want to try psychedelics or necessarily, you know, need to try psychedelics. And I feel like there's these altered brain states are accessible through the body, even naturally. In a lot of these sessions, we're talking about these embodied rituals, you know, ritual poses and, you know, together community embodied rituals. And I feel like that's really what is missing within our computational platform to bring this body language. And really, I really feel that we can bring these altered states into our consciousness, even through just body movement.

[00:28:54.062] Kent Bye: Yeah, it is interesting to see the integration of psychedelics in this community. And people talk about the transformational technology conference, which tends to be a little bit more focused on like the more cognitive neuroscience and meditation and contemplative practices mixed with looking at different technologies to measure brain waves and stuff. But I feel like there's this other kind of radical turn towards these transcendent experiences that people have, which is like either they'll have a complete shift in their consciousness or have these psychedelic journeys that may not be fully explained in terms of where they're coming from, what it means. And I feel like there's a certain amount of frontier. A lot of this stuff has come from these religious and spiritual traditions that have traditions around them, whether it's a Samadhi or certain very strict definitions in terms of what those types of states of consciousness may mean. But I think it feels to me Awakened feels like more of a colloquial way of talking about those transcendent states of consciousness. Because in the current state we don't have a comprehensive framework for consciousness of what it even is. But people have a phenomenal experience of what some of those states might feel like. But to try to define them, I feel like there's certain traditions that have defined them. But to me that feels like there's this cross-section between those more mystical traditions with the meditative contemplative practices of what the neuroscience can see at this point. But I feel like there's still a lot more that has been done in these more new age or spiritual practices that there's this kind of confluence with all these things together. And so it's me, I feel like it's a little bit of sign of saying, hey, we're going to be talking about stuff that hasn't been proven by science yet, but people may have experienced it. And I guess that's the integration intersection is what can they learn from each other and how can they look at it through the lens of the neuroscience or through being able to sort of quantify it or make sense of it through these models. But that in some ways, the book of Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind is the frontier of neuroscience seems to be going into these altered states to be able to kind of like switch into a completely different modality of experience and then learn about how the brain works. I feel like VR does something similar, which is that you are able to get into this altered state of consciousness and then start to do this comparison based upon what it may be normally and then maybe start to discover more things about the mind. So, it feels like that these altered states and these experiential technologies are helping us learn more about the brain. At least that's how I see it.

[00:31:17.196] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, definitely. I mean, that's why I pivoted, I guess, to VR, because I hope soon psychedelics will be legalized in some form or another. I was also doing research in the Netherlands, which made it then easier, yes, to do research into psychedelics, but VR is legal. So far and maybe it does actually need to be a little bit more research and maybe some experience should be a little bit more at least Educate the users about the potential effects of the brain because there are long-term potential effects We know this if it does things like healing anorexia it can also create body dysmorphia And this is part of really for designers and if there's other creators that are hearing this, I really recommend you sort of look into the research that's been done to try to take responsibility for what we're building and understand what could go wrong too. and try to mitigate that. It's a very new technology. It's magical and we're still learning a lot. So I think in that respect VR is similar to these transcendent effects because we really don't even fully understand this as a technology yet. We don't fully know how to build like UXs around this or really it's very new and that's sort of the fun of it that we really get to explore territories that I remember the first message the first asynchronous message Matt sent me like the first dance and I really think we might be the first people that actually like whoa I got his dance and could dance with him you know he was just on the other side of the room it wasn't that far It still felt like, wow, we're the first people that are doing this. And it was very exciting. And there's a lot of this in this conference, not only in VR, but a lot of things that are very novel to humanity. And that's very fun.

[00:33:08.476] Matthew Hoe: Honestly, I feel like Sarah said it pretty well.

[00:33:12.478] Kent Bye: Cool. Awesome. And finally, what do you each think is the ultimate potential of virtual reality? And what am I able to enable?

[00:33:23.874] Matthew Hoe: I really feel that as embodied creatures being able to understand ourselves to a greater degree through our bodies and move away from, I feel like computers kind of created this more rationalist framework of clean cut, start with your head and then maybe if you're lucky move your way down to your body but probably not. And I feel that really just to free ourselves with technology, that's my main goal. Technology should be primarily to liberate us. And I feel like liberation, at least within this regard, it is really through the body. So that's really my dream.

[00:34:01.551] Sarah Hashkes: Yeah, it's very similar. I'm just going to add it's not just It's also freeing ourselves from this one body that we're born with. We have an experience where you have like tentacle arms. It's so fun, wow, to have tentacle arms. We're still trying to build a tail, right? But to be able to experience reality through versions of your body that you can't have, playing with things like scale, How does that affect you? How does that affect your communication with others? There's just so many parameters that VR lets us play with that are easy to play with. That doing this on the biological level is maybe one day humanity will get there, but we're very, very far from that. And in VR, that's the magic. And a lot of the times I'm also like, Seeing most of the creations out there when they give you avatars or bodies or whatnot, they're very just trying to get a cuter version of yourself. And for me, I feel that's a loss. That's sort of putting me in a box. There's so much that I could be. There's so much that I could express with my body if you just give me the tools to be something else. And that's what really we're hoping to see more of out there.

[00:35:14.894] Kent Bye: Great. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the immersive community?

[00:35:20.015] Sarah Hashkes: Download our thing soon once it's out there. It's called Miu. It's M-E-U. M-E-U, yeah. Miu. We're bridging the gap between me and you. And yeah, we're looking for definitely user testers that want to try this and give us feedback. And we're trying to build this as much as we can as a community thing, because we really believe this technology should be all of ours, right? And we're developing, but if people want to help build this in any way possible, please be in touch.

[00:35:53.196] Kent Bye: Awesome. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me. So thank you.

[00:35:55.881] Matthew Hoe: Thank you very much.

[00:35:56.902] Sarah Hashkes: Thank you.

[00:35:58.252] Kent Bye: So that was Sarah Haskiss, CEO of Radix Motion, as well as Matthew Ho, he's the CTO of Radix Motion, and they're creating Miu, which is a messenger platform for virtual reality. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that first of all, Well, I was super fascinated by a lot of the cognitive neuroscience that Sarah was bringing up, and especially around this predictive coding model of how your brain is really like this prediction machine that is taking in all of the sensory input, and then it's matching it upon all of your lived experiences. And it's doing like this. difference and you're seeing what the error between what you're expecting and what you're actually experiencing and if you're able to Tweak that a little bit to be able to give something that people don't expect then has this sense of novelty that has this real kind of viral nature to that and I think that's a lot of what's happening with things with like snapchat and and Instagram facial filters is that it's tweaking these body representations that we have of ourselves and kind of making these different slight changes and differences so that it makes us react in completely different ways as we're seeing these mirrors of our embodiment, then it taps into these different aspects of our personality that we're able to express. So the thing that was really striking to me was that both Matthew and Sarah had family that was overseas and that they really wanted to be able to connect to them in an asynchronous fashion. And so they wanted to push the limits of what's possible with embodied communication to be able to give a hug to somebody asynchronously, which, you know, when you're hugging someone in VR, it's nothing that's actually there, but it is quite a surreal experience to see the archetypal representation of somebody's body that you know and recognize and to be able to hug and embrace them within an immersive virtual reality experience. So there's all sorts of deep neuroscience that is underlying this experience, which I think makes it pretty fascinating to see where this ends up going. They're really, first of all, trying to have a user experience that's focused around the body and focusing on embodiment. into this concept of embodied cognition and seeing how there's all these different body maps within the three different parts of our brain, these body schemas that are in our cerebellum, our motor cortex, and our sensory cortex, and that we're getting information from each of those, and we're kind of fusing it all together, and that in some ways our visual system can dominate, but we're also very plastic and pliable, so that she was talking about inverse kinematics having these huge problems with being able to track elbows, but yet One or two things happen is that first if you're in an experience and then you start to have your elbows not be locked up to your body, then it can break your sense of presence where you're like, oh no, this is not actually my body. But she says also what she noticed is that even when you start to have the broken representation within VR, then your body starts to actually adjust whatever that brokenness is. Sarah, I think, was giving a lot of these cautionary tales in terms of like, hey, maybe we should take a look at what some of this body schema research that's been happening within the use of virtual reality technologies. And there's a risk there that if we start to play with these body schemas and representations too much that have too much of a deviation from what we're expecting, then If VR can be used to cure different levels of anorexia, then there is a potential there to go into these virtual reality experiences that are poorly designed or not really taking into consideration the impact of being able to play with these body schemas. And that as we come out of VR, we have these different modulated experiences of how we view our body and could actually invoke these different levels of body dysmorphia. which i think it's something that i haven't heard a lot of other people talk about and i think it's a valid concern to be able to look at what some of the research is saying and it sounds like they're very guided by a lot of that research and i was just really touched by the direct embodied experiences that matthew had to share just in terms of creating these little embodied rituals that he used to do with his mother and to be able to create a volumetric version of that, but then to create a 2D video and to send that to his mother and to kind of evoke a lot of those different feelings that came up when he used to do that ritual with her. and that Sarah was talking about how she'd love to have from her different partners something that goes beyond people just hitting like the emoji button of the love. She wants to see an embodied interaction of somebody actually making a dance specifically with their body in the moment and to be able to send it to her as this gesture. And it's not something that is just a reaction gif or an emoji and that in some ways we've seen this shift towards this visual communication and reaction gifs and these memes but yet, where they see us going is that eventually you're going to be creating your own memes and using your own body to be able to create this level of symbolic communication. And they're really starting to play with different kind of elemental perceptions of what the body can look like and collaborating with the artist Gabibo. It's got a lot of his style of artwork in there and just some really super compelling ways that you're able to look at your body and as you move around, just this really fluid, interesting interactions that As you look at yourself in this 3D mirror, it changes the way that you're moving around. And I could see where this is going to have a huge potential for once people figure out that they can start to create their own memes and their own embodied reactions, then I think this has potential to really take off in terms of being a new trend. I think people that are these z generation they're growing up on snapchat and I think to some extent they're already doing that like instead of sending people a text of what they're thinking they may just show a picture of what is on their face and so they try to really get into this deep sense of presence of trying to express through their body these different emotions and to send that as kind of a shortcut for what they're feeling, what they're thinking about. And so you already have these people that are using their direct sense of embodiment to be able to communicate with each other. And so I think it makes sense that the next iteration is going to be with these immersive technologies to have more and more platforms for people to kind of play around with and to be silly. I mean, I think there's one thing that is different between Snapchat and Instagram is that Snapchat is just super silly with the level of different types of embodiments that they have. And they're just like fun and irrelevant and quirky. And, you know, they're totally in alignment with the youth in terms of creating these different opportunities for them to express themselves in different ways. And I think there's a similar kind of like fun, quirky element to the Miu. And it was interesting to hear Sarah talk about how she kind of felt like this alien trying to show this type of experience to other people, but yet going to this Awaken Future Summit with all these people who are well-steeped in all these different levels of psychedelic culture, they totally get it right away and they see the value and the purpose of being able to step into these different levels of embodiment and to be able to communicate with each other in this way. And that Matthew was saying that so much of today's media environment is kind of feeding into this disassociated media addiction that is really focused on this quantification of the number of likes that you can get, and that it really skips the body, and that they're really trying to find ways to show the body and include the body within the technology that they're building. And that remixing memes in the future is gonna be much more embodied, where you're gonna be able to actually put your own body into these expressions and to be able to send that along. and kind of escape what they see as this social media void that we're all going into right now. And, you know, that within the neuroscience community, they talk about body cognition. And Sarah was talking about how it's kind of referred to as this motor chauvinist, where it's almost like this perspective of like, the brain is almost all completely about movement and motion. But there's so many different aspects of our metaphors that we understand are through the body, and that because the brain is so focused on this motor cortex, then there's so many processes of, as we change the way that we move our body, it actually changes the way that we think. And so in some radical way, by focusing on encouraging these dance approaches to embodied communication, it's actually gonna change the way that we think. and that they're really trying to expand and create a larger bandwidth of communication within humans. And that with this, they're going to create these altered states of consciousness within the brain, as well as to create these different community and embodied rituals with people interacting with each other. And then eventually they want to start to play with different levels of embodiment, not to feel like we're trapped by just having a humanoid expression, but what's it mean to embody an octopus or to be able to start to train ourselves what it feels like to have a tail. So going beyond just the humanoid representations of our bodies and to play with completely other different types of embodiments as well. And that some ways Sarah feels like a lot of these different programs feels like these avatars are putting her in a box and she wants to be able to more freely express herself and to be able to find these different levels of liberation through exploring different types of embodiment. So that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash Voices of VR. Thanks for listening.

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