Sometimes you’re sitting in the sun in Dolores park and you’ve had half a beer and you see this dancing robot with music blasting out of its thorax and you’re given a pair of weird goggles and told that if you wear them while dancing with the robot you can see yourself dancing with the robot, so obviously you strap them on and start getting down with your bad self.
San Francisco startup Outerbody Experience Lab offers the opportunity to see yourself from a third-person perspective–basically, you are filmed while performing some activity (like dancing with robots) and in the goggles’ field of vision you see yourself from the perspective of the camera. Their website explains:
Your visual perspective has a lot of influence over how your mind fabricates your own sense of self. In this fractured sensory state you’ll have the opportunity to sample a handful of activities and games that accentuate the balance between your eyesight and your other embodied senses. The goal is to relocate your sense of self out of your body.
Their promotional event yesterday was a one-off, although the dancing robot is a regular and has become somewhat of a Dolores Park institution, but OEL offers 15 minute or one hour studio sessions or can do on-location events like parties or yoga classes, all customizable for whatever you want to watch yourself doing. My guess is it won’t be long before they have to insert a “no porn” clause into their terms of service.
I had trouble making the goggles fit my head, and so sometimes couldn’t see anything at all. When I could see, I couldn’t actually tell whether what I was seeing was the negative image of what was going on (meaning whether the movement on the right of the screen was actually happening to my right or to my left and vice versa), and there was a bit of a drag, which was disorienting indeed. I’d be flailing my arms and see myself still shimmying my shoulders as I had done a moment before. Then since all of my actual vision was obscured I couldn’t tell where the camera was, so when I left the frame and could only see the robot or the other dancers, I didn’t know which direction to move in in order to re-enter the scene. And all the while I had a nagging worry that I was about to tumble to my death down the gentle incline of the grassy knoll. But it was still quite fun, and I think, a worthwhile experiment in literalizing the effect of “watching yourself,” so often derided as the death of spontaneity and the creative impulse, on your behavior and actions.
Here is yet another perspective on the experiment, that of my friend Jessica and my iphone. I take no responsibility for my dancing here. Like I said, half a beer, disorientation, blindness, fear of grassy death…definitely watch it on high def (HD 720); my ridiculousness is at its clearest thus. You may commence laughing now.