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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Virtual worlds to test telepathy
Virtual hand reaches for a virtual trumpet
Volunteers interact with randomly generated objects
A virtual world designed to test human telepathy has been demonstrated at the University of Manchester, UK.

Pairs of participants enter separate virtual rooms in the game and try to select which virtual object they think the other is interacting with.

The designers of the system say it overcomes some of the problems associated with real world studies.

Critics of previous tests say they are easily manipulated to create an effect that looks like telepathy but is not.

"By creating a virtual environment we are creating a completely objective environment which makes it impossible for participants to leave signals or even unconscious clues as to which object they have chosen," said Dr Toby Howard, one of the team that designed the system.

Virtual test

Participants in the study enter the immersive virtual world by slipping on a head-mounted display and an electronic glove. The glove allows them to navigate the world and interact with objects.

Our aim is not to prove or disprove its existence
David Wilde, researcher

Once inside separate rooms participants are shown a series of randomly generated virtual objects including a telephone, football or umbrella.

The first participant is shown the objects one at a time. As they appear they are asked to concentrate on them and interact with them.

In the second room, the other volunteer is shown the same object and three others. They are then asked to select the object they think the other participant is trying to telepathically send them information about.

The researchers aim to test 100 volunteers. They are particularly interested in whether relationships such as family-ties affect telepathic ability.

However, they do not believe the virtual test will finally prove whether telepathy is a real phenomenon or not.

"Our aim is not to prove or disprove its existence but to create an experimental method which stands up to scientific scrutiny," said David Wilde, another member of the team.

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