The award-winning immersive experience gives you a safe space to explore gender.
Body of Mine is a 15-minute VR experience that simulates body dysphoria by allowing you to step into the body of another gender. Facial, eye, and body tracking, allow you to unlock real-life interviews with individuals who are transgender. The project aims to provoke introspection and open up discussions about gender identity and the experiences of transgender individuals all around the world.
Cameron Kostopoulos, the project’s lead designer, said that the primary goal of the project is to help people explore their gender and think critically about it. “We really want this to be a way for people to get a headset and explore their own gender and think more critically and deeply about what gender is.”
Body of Mine debuted during SXSW 2023 where it won a Special Jury Award in the XR Experience Competition, with organizers calling it a beautifully-crafted VR experience that effectively demonstrates how VR technology can provide a safe space for understanding, reflection, and connection when a safe space in the real world is hard to find.
Along with SXSW, Body of Mine has won numerous other awards thanks to its powerful message. “We want to take it to the areas around the world that have a lot of transphobias and have people who could empathize more and don’t have the opportunity to understand trans issues,” added Kostopoulos.
During a demo for Axios in NYC, Kostopoulos talked about the various individuals who are in the closet and struggling with their identities. He said that he helped a trans girl try the Body of Mine prototype during the festival, and he also let her mother, who kept referring to her daughter as “son,” try the experience. The VR experience left the mother silent, according to Kostopoulos.
Through immersive videos and VR, people can gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be in a certain body or setting. Jeremy Bailenson, who is a founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and studies the psychology of virtual and augmented reality (AR), and, in particular, how virtual experiences lead to changes in perceptions of self and others, talks about this in his book Experience on Demand. It’s these types of experiences that can help people connect with marginalized groups.
Kostopoulos, who is gay, said that he came up with the idea for the project after he was outed by someone. He said that he was thinking about how VR could be used to create safe spaces. The goal was to create a piece that would tell the stories of his trans friends, as well as help others.
To ensure privacy, screenings for the demo are done in private rooms; Kostopoulos says that anonymity is a crucial aspect of the experience in order to keep people protected and safe.
Ultimately, he is hopeful that Body of Mine can have a positive impact.
He claims that Body of Mine doesn’t show people changing their minds immediately. Instead, it allows people to connect with stories that they might not normally relate to. The next step for the project is to continue refining it before releasing it for free on VR platforms that support body tracking.
“Rarely you’re going to see someone with a change of heart right on the spot,” he says. But “you’re relating to stories in a way that you don’t normally and that at least plants a seed.”
Up next for Kostopoulos is a VR app called A Cure for Straightness that will use generative artificial intelligence (AI) to train a virtual therapist that attempts to convince straight people to become gay. He says that this will be used to debunk the idea of conversion therapy.
You can learn more about Body of Mine by clicking here. Read more about Cameron Kostopoulo and connect with him on his LinkedIn page. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, you can schedule a private screening of Body of Mine here.
Feature Image Credit: Cameron Kostopoulos