Owens' costume, reminiscent of the MMORPG "World of Warcraft," might inspire human behavior studies or become the next big thing in high-tech toys.

HowStuffWorks 2007

Avatar Machine Applications

Owens' fascination regarding the boundaries between virtual and physical environments was instrumental in his design of the Avatar Machine. Much of his research focuses on how people behave differently within a virtual space from how they do in real life. The Avatar Machine blurs the lines between the digital and physical worlds, particularly for people who are familiar with third-person video games.

Sociologists and psychologists might find the Avatar Machine useful when studying human behavior. Owens theorizes that people might feel a diminished sense of social responsibility when wearing the Avatar Machine. He believes users might also feel a sense of invincibility when viewing themselves from a third-person perspective. Through the Avatar Machine, users might experience a sense of disconnection from their physical presence.

Owens thinks that the disconnected feeling users experience could lead to interesting behaviors, many of which are rare in real life but common in the world of video games. Users might become less self-conscious and behave in ways they normally wouldn't in public. This behavior could range from dancing and striking silly poses to acting like a bully toward other people.

Another application for the Avatar Machine is as a form of entertainment. The Avatar Machine has the potential to become a high-tech game or toy. When users tested the Avatar machine, Owens observed that they seemed to enjoy possessing the physical characteristics and traits of a creature much larger and more powerful than themselves. He also saw that many of them had fun observing the reactions of passers-by. It's not hard to imagine the Avatar Machine becoming a curiosity at a high-tech amusement park.

To learn more about the Avatar Machine and related subjects, follow the links on the next page.