Well, you don’t have to be new age guru, nor werewolf to experience an embodiment. In fact, it happens to you every day. Let me give you some examples.
“The mouse was just a tiny piece of a much larger project, aimed at augmenting human intellect.” — Doug Engelbart, inventor of the mouse
You have may never think about it, but one of the most common embodiments is your computer cursor. Yes, that little arrow which allows you to interact with digital reality of the computer 2d screen. Although it may appear that it is still your body that drives the interaction with a computer (through the negligible moves of your forearm and fingers), it is not true. If you want to enter the 2D world of the screen space, you need to utilize that pointy guy who happens to live there.
Let’s take a more in-depth look what’s going on there: Obviously, our physical body is not capable of direct interactions with zeros and ones, nor with their graphical representations. However, when we map our hand through the computer mouse to the moves of the cursor, and our eyes to follow it on display, we can do so. It is still our mind that drives it, but it is embodied into the cursor, while the immediate feeling of our physical body temporary disappears from the current reality and becomes obsolete. Just think about it for a moment: Do you say “I move my finger” or “I click at icon” when you want to interact with a computer?
"Cars are not a suit of clothes; cars are an avatar. Cars are an expansion of yourself: they take your thoughts, your ideas, your emotions, and they multiply it -- your anger, whatever. It's an avatar." — Chris Bangle: Great cars are great art
And how about this example: Can you run at 130km/h, carry 400kg of bags and take another four persons along with you? Apparently, our bodies can’t do that. Unless we use the car. Unless we embody into the car. Of course, one can say that car is just a machine that we control with our hands on the steering wheel, with our feet on the pedals and eyes looking at the road at the front of us. Well, isn’t it the same description as the one we’ve used when we talked about the computer cursor? Are you deeply and consciously aware of your physical body when you drive? Instead of it, we feel the road we drive on, all the vibrations. We accommodate our visual perception to the speed, and we hardly think about what our body does with the car. Our body is temporarily replaced with the body of the car, while our senses and locomotion apparatus is mapped to the modalities of the car.
“For real human beings, the only realism is an embodied realism.”
― George Lakoff
I could also use an example of a bicycle riding. Or skiing. In all cases, we don’t consciously think about what our body parts do. Instead, we think about it as bike-riding, skiing, driving and so on. Neuroscientist David Eagleman describes this phenomenon in this book “Incognito”: We learn to use our body as newborn babies, and we turn interactions between our body and mind into autonomous ”zombie” processes. The same thing happens later when we learn to ride a bicycle or to drive a car. We only think about our physical body during the learning phase, until these skills become zombie processes.
In fact, we experience the embodiment in many forms every day. Those various embodiments allow our mind to experience the realities beyond the capabilities of our physical body. Body, so to say, is a representation of the reality. Although some philosophers may complain that body rather defines than reflexes the reality, it has no importance in one specific case: Virtual reality. As there are no rules, nor laws that pre-define it, our embodiments are both reflection and definition at the same time. If we consider that the embodiment is a product of mapping new modalities to our sensory and motion system and that we can freely define this reality, what would be the perfect VR embodiment?
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