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Decades in the future, people have been able to augment their own sensory inputs in their brains and nerves to feel, see, taste and touch things that are not really there. Also, they can modify their muscular activity to make it consistent with the augmented reality.

An example is if someone is touching a virtual wall that doesn't exist in reality. They would be able to sense and feel the wall as if it was there. If they tried to apply pressure to the wall. Their muscles or nerves would instantly freeze and act like the wall actually existed; however, if the user tried to run into the wall, inertia would drag them across the solid as if it didn't exist, because their momentum would carry them on, even if the muscles would not be allowed to exert force to advance at that precise moment.

Now this made me wonder. Could it be possible to use technology to weaken the muscles or nerves on certain moments where the user was to pick up simulated objects that have "weight"?

For a follow up, let's say a virtual boxer were to punch you in the face, instead of the force coming from the boxer. It would instead by activated by the neck, back and leg muscles to twitch backward as if you actually did get punched.

So could this simulation of force also be possible?

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This question asks for hard science. All answers to this question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Answers that do not satisfy this requirement might be removed. See the tag description for more information.

  • $\begingroup$ Everybody's a mime. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Nov 2 '17 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ Does this really need to be hard-science? The level of technology you're talking about to manipulate sensory inputs/muscular outputs is far beyond anything we can do now. $\endgroup$ – Green Nov 2 '17 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @notstoreboughtdirt I think to pull this off we would need something like a hockey puck that sits at the base of your brain and intercepts all nerve system traffic. $\endgroup$ – Green Nov 2 '17 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ are you sure you are not confusing augmented reality with virtual reality? Augmented reality (AR) with such a level of realism would be insanely dangerous because humans brains will be unable to distinguish between physical reality and AR. What if the said wall obscures a hole? On the bright side, it would definitely increase the profits of medical industry. $\endgroup$ – Olga Nov 3 '17 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ I mean Augmented reality, but now when I think about it. It is a bit useless once VR becomes an actual norm as Green stated. $\endgroup$ – Red_Wasp Nov 3 '17 at 5:08
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Once you can, you won't need to

Design Requirements for the Magic Brain Puck that will make this possible:

  1. Must be able to load models of a virtual environment in order to simulate "heavy" objects.

    • Without this model, the puck won't know that when the user puts their hand in a certain place, it's supposed to feel a certain way or that the user's hand should be allowed to go into that space because something else is there already.
  2. Must be able to interrupt or augment all brain-body nervous connections.

    • If there are spurious other signals not controlled by the puck, then that can cause loss of immersion; much like playing a hard-core first person shooter but the game keeps having you run into things that aren't there or giving you no warning of things that are there. Nausea and vertigo often result when signals coming from your senses don't agree. This is a huge problem in 2017 VR headsets.
    • Further, if the user decides to lift something that's supposed to be very heavy, the puck must be able to accentuate or attenuate muscle control signals in order to make the weight feel realistic.
  3. Must be able to handle sympathetic (voluntary) and parasympathetic (involuntary) nerve activity.

    • Sympathetic nervous activity covers conscious muscle control. Parasympathetic nervous activity covers such things as balance, reflexes, blood flow control at the capillary level, sweat gland operation and a thousand other things.
  4. Must be able to capture nervous input along the entire spinal column, not just the brain-spinal column interface.

    • Reflexive movements often do not require a round-trip to the brain, instead requiring a much shorter trip to the spinal column. If reflexive movements are not controlled then immersion can be broken when a muscle twitches when it's not supposed to or doesn't when it is supposed to.
  5. Must have an equal or better defensive mechanism compared to the pre-existing neural system.

    • The magic puck must protect the user from muscle damage from over-exertion, blood flow control (not too much or too little blood flow to extremities or organs). All current reflexes must be preserved because they protect the body from damage. Body management functions such organ function, must also be preserved. And surprise, inflammation is controlled to a certain degree by the nervous system.
    • The puck must maintain balance in keeping with visual cues or motion sickness may result.

With full control over the user's nervous system, any sensor perception is possible. The feeling of sitting, standing, lifting, jumping, heat, cold, pain, pleasure....absolutely anything. The user doesn't need to be standing and reach out to touch the wall, the puck need only tell the brain that is what is happening. No real movement required.

Why on earth would you do this?!

Having something that completely overrides your nervous system to give you some more immersion in a video game seems a very high price to pay. The security and survivability implications are huge!

What if the game glitches and stops your heart for 30 seconds? What if someone hijacks your puck and makes you sleep walk to your computer to empty your bank accounts? You'd have one hell of a time explaining what happened since to all appearances, you were the one that did it. What if your puck completely fails (and they will fail) and you die?

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  • $\begingroup$ Is this something that exists today? $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Nov 2 '17 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @computercarguy Not that I know of. The closest thing I've ever heard of are comparatively simple nerve-silicon interfaces dealing with course muscle movement or eyesight for the blind. Cochlear implants are another example. To pull off the magic hockey puck would require advances in nerve-silicon interfaces, signals processing, processor miniaturization, immune system suppression/augmentation, models of brain-body interaction then(!) how to mix all that stuff together to make an interactive experience. $\endgroup$ – Green Nov 2 '17 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ It's a long long way away. $\endgroup$ – Green Nov 2 '17 at 21:48
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If you think about it, this approach can only work for stopping actions in a way your body is capable of stopping. If I begin throwing a punch and reach a point where I cannot use my muscles to stop the punch before it hits your face, you're going to get hit. If you accelerate a fist for 300ms, and then try to stop it in the last 10ms, as though you hit a wall, you'll find you're just not strong enough.

It turns out that for much of what we do, it is actually possible to stop motion in exactly the way you describe. We generally try to operate in that portion of our capacity because it's safer -- we can undo mistakes. Many martial arts train this skill, and one reason they do so is because it's an excellent way to learn what actions you can do without committing to them, and what actions are committing you to a course of action you cannot stop. It's also quite clear that mimes engage in this sort of action. Their ability to create virtual walls is literally legendary, and a perfect example of the kind of control you are talking about. The existence of mimes shows that it is possible for muscles to be controlled in this way.

The result would be that you could use electrical nerve inhibition to stop your fingers as they touch a virtual wall. At that point, your muscles are simply commanded to "station keep" as though they were resting against a surface while you override the sensory nerves to give you the illusion of touching a wall. However, if you punched at the virtual wall hard enough, you may be able to punch through it because you got too much momentum going before the augmented-reality circuits realized that they needed to stop you.

Alternatively, they could inhibit your motion before you get to the wall. If your punch "goes soft" right after you begin to accelerate your fist, the augmented reality engine could keep your hand moving within the speeds and angles where it can stop it when it reaches the wall. The result, however, would feel very awkward. You would always feel like there's something trying to hold you back. Likewise, if someone starts virtually punching towards you, your arugmented reality engine might manipulate you into a position where, upon "contact," your neck, core, and leg muscles are in the position to emulate the effect of being struck.

The interesting question happens when you move into the world of your own internal desires. What if the augmented reality engine could convince you that you don't want to punch the wall, because it knows that your muscles aren't in the right position to let it inhibit your motion. If it could do that, you wouldn't feel like you're being held back at all, because it wouldn't be stopping anything you want to do.

Science fiction rather than hard science? Perhaps. However, there are real-life examples. Personally, I practice a martial art which uses these exact principles to send someone flying backwards without applying but the tiniest of forces. How it is done is all body positioning and mental preparation and all those things, but in the end the physical backwards movement is typically caused by the victim trying to regain balance and shooting themselves backwards with their own legs. So not only is this sort of thing possible, it's actually done in real life. I can do it.

Of course, we do this as a drill, in a school setting. It's a tool to fine tune the skills you would want in a fight. It's not assumed that we will be able to always bowl over every opponent without. The ability to defeat any opponent without force is the ideal goal, not the reality. When you think you can do it in real life, that's called huberis and ego. For an example of what happens when you cross that line, consider this video. A Kiai master had refined his art sufficiently that he believed he could stop anyone with his "empty force," using effects which are remarkably similar to what you want your augmented reality system to accomplish. He could demonstrate this on his students, of course. He put up a few thousand dollars to anyone who thought they could best him. A MMA fighter took him up on the bet. I'll let you watch the video to find out what happens.

I will say that it's remarkably hard to prove that this sort of chi magic is impossible in general, but it is very easy to demonstrate one person's failure by punching them in the face repeatedly.

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This question asks for hard science. All answers to this question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Answers that do not satisfy this requirement might be removed. See the tag description for more information.

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When I was in Tae Kwon Do, my instructors taught us how to use internal resistance (aka isometric resistance) to pretend to push a wall or heavy weight around without actually having a wall or weight. Using opposing muscles is what allowed us to do this, and it took training.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isometric_exercise

Isometric exercise or isometrics are a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction (compared to concentric or eccentric contractions, called dynamic/isotonic movements). Isometrics are done in static positions, rather than being dynamic through a range of motion.

It doesn't feel the same as actually lifting a weight or pushing a wall, but it exercises the muscles as if you were. (It also exercises the opposing muscles, so it has side benefits.) It's the same kind of thing as making a gesture as if to slap or punch someone/thing and then "pull your punch". You provide the resistance to your gesture by opposing muscles, rather than missing or actually hitting something.

There may be a way to modify isometrics training so the opposing muscle usage is less noticeable, but IDK of a way to do that, myself. At least, not without Googling if someone has already done that.

You could go so far as to make the training not allow the nerve impulse reach the muscle normally, or the brain not sending the signal in the first place. Then it's more of self-imposed mind control than body control. In the extreme case of "running into a wall", you could have the opposing muscles get a signal, which may feel more like an actual wall hit. This flows into the "mind over matter" concept, that all things in your body are governed by your brain, so if your brain doesn't tell your body to do something, it doesn't do it.

There's plenty of training for "mind over matter" in martial arts (Google). One of the most extreme are Kung-Fu Iron styles: Iron Shirt, Iron Fist, Iron palm, even Iron Crotch, and many more. They do a lot of training to toughen up their skin, muscles, and bones plus dull the nerve endings, but a lot of that is also pushing the mind to understand different limits than the human mind normally considers.

It would take some fine control of these techniques to be able to "feel" a flower that wasn't actually there, though. Given a long enough time span from today, the techniques may be able to be refined to match what you want.

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This question asks for hard science. All answers to this question should be backed up by equations, empirical evidence, scientific papers, other citations, etc. Answers that do not satisfy this requirement might be removed. See the tag description for more information.

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