MIRAGE (short for Mirrors and Genius)* is a sort of ‘magic hand box’ that allows people to see and feel their own hands being physically distorted or apparently moving under alien control. Illusions range from giving people stretched fingers to making one hand disappear. Artificial manipulation of the body image is important for understanding how the brain makes sense of our body and has the potential for therapeutic applications.
MIRAGE works as a sort of virtual (or mediated) reality device that uses a system of cameras and mirrors and allows the viewer to see a real-time video image of their own hand in the same location as their actual hand.
MIRAGE research can help us to understand how normal body representations are formed and is useful for research into chronic pain, autism, medically unexplained symptoms, recovery from stroke and much more.
It was invented by Roger Newport at the University of Nottingham in 2008. If you want to know how MIRAGE came about, take a look at the Story of MIRAGE page and find out how we went from box files to the British Science Festival.
* What does MIRAGE really stand for?
When pushed, the inventor of MIRAGE will say that it is short for Mirrors and Genius, but that can’t be right. The shortened version of Mirrors and Genius would be written MirAGe or MiraGe.
When challenged on the obscurity of the name MIRAGE, the inventor will also point to the dictionary definition of a mirage as ‘an illusion or fantasy; something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so’ (OED) which, admittedly, is pretty much what the system creates. However, if that were the case then the system should be referred to as Mirage. MIRAGE (capitalised) suggests that each letter forms part of an acronym. If not, then we can only conclude that MIRAGE was capitalised on a whim or fleeting grammatical aberration and that would never do. So, what could it stand for? Perhaps you can solve the mystery, or simply give it a good name. Post your suggestions on the blog, please. Best answer gets a prize or dubious reward.
Here are a couple to start you off with:
Marvelously Inventive Roger Always Gets Enlarged (fingers, that is).
Multisensory Illusion Rearranges Animals in Giraffe Enclosure