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This arrangement is part of an evolving perceptual toolkit and will be used to explore some newly discovered perceptual illusions, as well as aiding with my research into the embodiment of unfeasible objects. In its current configuration, 6 servo motors articulate brushes, simultaneously brushing your hand [conceled behind the partition] as well as an empty space. The participant focusses and imagines their hand in the empty space, and in doing so eventually embodies that space. [ See my post “On the embodiment of a discrete volume of empty space”]

[See more images here]

This device is based on the RHI [Rubber hand illusion] paradigm which uses Visio-tactile synchronisation as a means to investigate embodiment. In some ways, it is superior to a human operator, in that it can deliver repeated, highly accurate and synchronous stimuli. It can deliver multiple stimuli – rather than just one. However, It needs to be operated in conjunction with a skilled human operator who is able to deliver more dynamic and complex manoeuvres. Viewed as an artwork within my artist practice, the use of a table is significant. Refereeing my original series of works, ‘Tabletop Experiments’ which used domestic materials and equipment with which to undertake the ‘performance’ of experiments.

[See the development of the ideas here] [For the broader context see this page]

Technical description
An Arduino controls two sets of identical stimuli which move in synchronisation with each other [ servo motor, articulating solenoids, fans, lamps etc] After some time the participants begin to articulate sensations and feelings of embodiment within the empty space [or other object placed in front of them] Once the participant is experiencing the illusion, the operator or autonomous systems can trigger a ‘shock’ or threat stimuli. This is currently in the form of a solenoid which releases a heaved plum line weight which drops into the empty space.

Parameters of the experiment can be changed such as:
– Random and non-random sequences.
– Rate or frequency of stimuli.
– Type of stimuli [Tapping or brushing the skin, heat or air flow] – The position of stimuli.

It can incorporate bio-feedback. This opens up the possibility of synchronising stimuli with heart rate or galvanic skin response. Or simply changing the frequencies for example.


An alternative method using air flow as the stimulus. This work is to be extended to full body scale illusions. And using the Arduino to sync with Unity or Unreal Engine to control Virtual spaces of 360 panoramic video.

See the development of the work as it evolves #tactile-anchoring