A diverse and multidisciplinary team of experts in the European research project Virtualtimes is developing Metachron. It is the virtual reality (VR) platform that aims to study, manipulate and treat distortions related to the sense of time. The launch of this project indicates that research on the earth is already being conducted using Virtual Reality (VR) in order to manipulate time.

Maybe a certain extent of time manipulation could be possible using Virtual Reality. But this is not to say that time travel would be possible, only that a user could manipulate the passage of time within an experience.

Imagine entering the VR world at 1 AM and coming out of it after an hour, after living 51 days. If the experience included a past life, a user could come to think that 51 days had passed in the real world.

You could use this for fictional narratives of the kind “you go back in time and learn about your parents”.

One example would be a self-contained VR world that you enter at 10 AM on the beach, and leave at 10 PM after spending 6 weeks on the island. You could believe that you have lived a whole life and back, even though it was only one day in reality.

The issue of manipulating time using VR sounds cool – but what if it was not fun? It would turn out to be a horror game and you have no option but to suffer.

Furthermore, the word “time” means different for different people on Earth, and different objects in the Universe. Manipulating time may not be possible using just our human ideas of time.

Can we Manipulate time using VR?

Your brain’s perception of time is a psychological process rather than a perception of how fast time is actually moving. If a user is in a VR completely out of sync with the real world, the user will perceive time differently from what actually happens.

Almost every person has experienced that time passes faster or slower at certain times than others.

Experts have also said that hormones affect our perception of time and brain chemistry changes as you enter into a deep sleep. The same hormone that affects time perception can cause your sense of space to change as well.

The effect to make you lose track of reality could be achieved in two ways:

1) by inducing psychological drug states, and 2) by using Virtual Reality.

Using drugs could produce hallucinatory experiences, but it’s certainly not recommended. But losing track of reality with VR seems to be fun, and if it’s possible, it’s the future!

The extent of time manipulation

It is possible to manipulate time using Virtual Reality up to an extent, but the potential downside of this kind of technology can have a negative impact on the use of VR as a tool.

The user could become addicted to their own experience, transported into a world where time is not necessarily progressing and passing as they would expect it to.

When they exit the virtual world, they will be “in” different time zones with a different perception of time, causing severe psychological discomfort.

Albert Einstein’s popular theory of relativity is that time can slow down as objects reach the speed of light, and this may allow for time travel. However, things would slow down differently in different reference frames, resulting in the experience of time passing normally while the passage of time is altered in another reference frame.

The Lorentz factor, named after the Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz, γ (gamma) is given by the equation γ ≡ Lorentz Factor so that the effect increases exponentially as the object’s velocity v approaches the speed of light c. 

Hence, the calculations make it clear that at 25% of the speed of light, the effect is just 1.03 (a mere 3% slowing of time or contraction of length). Likewise, at 50%, it is just 1.15, at 99%, time is slowed by a factor of about 7 and at 99.999% of the speed of light, the factor is 224. 

Therefore, if it were possible to travel in a spaceship at 99.5% of the speed of light, a hypothetical observer looking in would see the clock moving about 10 times slower than normal and the astronaut inside moving in slow motion, as though through a treacle.

Lorentz had been exploring such transformation equations as early as 1895, long before Einstein began his work.

How you can manipulate time in Virtual Reality

Here are 11 ways you can manipulate time in Virtual Reality:

1) Travel at near-light speed — 

Imagine traveling at the speed of light (or almost) in Virtual Reality. Time will go slower for you, and people will perceive that you have traveled in time. As mentioned above, we can never travel at the speed of light physically, Virtual Reality might help us travel at the speed of light and hence slow down time.

2) Enter a Virtual Reality where time is stretched — 

Think about traveling at near the speed of light in a world where time is moving abnormally slow. People will perceive that time has moved faster than normal, and you have been “traveling” for longer than you think.

3) Multiple lives inside VR — 

Imagine being able to manipulate your perception of time while inside the Virtual Reality experience, resulting in an effect similar to living multiple lives or experiencing an extended lifespan within a short period of time.

4) Creating new experiences — 

VR feels more like a real-life new experience, so your brain records more information making it feel like time was slower/longer. As most of us are aware, time moves faster as we age because we create fewer unique experiences as we grow up. VR can help create more experiences that are unique to us. This directly means an influence on our perception of time.

5) Adding negative effects to time — 

If you are controlling or manipulating a user’s time in some way using VR, it is possible to add negative aspects to time. If a user enters a VR world and sees that their hair is falling out or something else is wrong, time will move slower for the user causing them to feel old and grey. And, if a user looks into their closet, this could be perceived as their life flashing before them when they look towards the mirror, which could make them feel depressed about looking older than they really are.

6) Manipulating time in a positive way –

Similar to the example of an extended lifespan, it is possible to manipulate time to create an experience that makes people happy and excited. Enjoyable experiences can ensure that the Virtual Reality world will attract a user even if they are enjoying the experience. This would greatly contribute to the long-term success of virtual reality devices.

7) Increase time in real life — 

Imagine entering a VR world and staying there for as long as you want without going back into real life. Then suddenly you find yourself in your house with everything going on normally as if nothing ever changed. But how? Well, you could have easily been in the VR world for a long time.

8) Your body feels like it aged — 

If you use virtual reality for a long period of time your body may feel like it aged years inside the VR world only hours after leaving it. Maybe through a game — maybe through a simulation.

If we can understand time, anything is possible.

Imagine being able to slow your perception of time down to a rate of nearly stopping time while getting older and feeling like you are working faster than ever. This would change the way we experience daily life.

If we could control time inside a virtual reality, it would become more important than ever before. It would make Virtual Reality an ultimate tool! It’d be like being in a Matrix world where people cannot tell the difference between real and virtual because both feel very real.

9) Make your brain think it’s the future — 

If you enter a VR world and find yourself in a place where all of your senses are telling you that it is “the future”, time could move slower for you than it would have in reality. This perception could be manipulated using VR, but no real technology is available right now. read more

10) Reverse time — 

If you enter a VR world where time is running backward, you will perceive time as moving in the opposite direction, but you may not realize it! If you return to the real world, you would have experienced a much longer time than you think.

11) Break the laws of physics in VR — 

If you manage to break the laws of physics in Virtual Reality and live there, you have just managed to defeat the laws of nature. It would make sense that you could manipulate time as well, using this type of technology.

What will it take to manipulate time in VR?

We can’t say for sure. But here are some possibilities:

i) Simulation of the brain — 

It’s possible that the brain is capable of simulating itself, and acts as if it were in another world. If the brain is capable of doing this, maybe it can be simulated on a computer.

ii) Artificial Intelligence — 

Maybe some people will understand science and figure out how to simulate their brains inside a computer or something similar — or even train an AI (Artificial Intelligence) to mimic their brain activity. read more

iii) Holographic technology 

If we ever do figure out a way to make lifelike holograms, we could create a virtual reality world in 2D and 3D and manipulate time for the virtual reality user.

iv) Brain stimulation — 

Mental disorders such as schizophrenia can sometimes cause “visions” of things that are not real. It may be possible to stimulate the brain in order to give a user an experience of time in reverse or slowing down, etc.

v) Memory manipulation — 

If software can be written to manipulate an individual’s memory, it would be possible to control time as well. We could use Virtual Reality to induce feelings of fear, sadness, or anything that could be used as a “weapon” against someone.

vi) Simply creating a VR game that makes you age slower — 

As we discussed earlier too, it might be possible to create a VR game that makes you age slower and feel like time has slowed down or reversed. Would this really work though? Yes, but only as long as you are in the VR world. Just live 10 years in 10 hours and come back for dinner. Cool, isn’t it? It could be made possible by connecting VR to the brain’s memory and neuroplasticity maybe. 

vii) A new way of thinking about time — 

It is completely possible that there is a new way of thinking that has never been discovered! Let’s say you could enter a VR world that makes you feel like your brain could be having an “out of body” experience. If this were possible, it would alter the perception of your brain and change your perception of time forever.

viii) Making someone think they are in a different dimension — 

If you could convince someone that they are somewhere else, perhaps far from the real world, time might appear to go faster for that individual because the person would be more aware of events happening around him or her. It is possible in theory but is very difficult to do — so we will discuss more of this later on in another article.

ix) Brainwave manipulation — 

If you stimulate your brain with electrical impulses or other chemicals, it could be possible to make a user feel like time is slowing down or going in reverse. 

x) Creating dreams in VR — 

Imagine literally dreaming in VR. When you are in VR, you feel relaxed and your brain is in a state of low-frequency waves that are closer to the “alpha state”. This alpha brainwave state allows for creativity and visionary thought, along with relaxation. When you dream, your brain waves will be very similar to what they get when you are in a low-frequency alpha state.

I wonder if we can artificially create the same low-frequency brainwave states inside VR, could we induce dreams? Could we simulate the same brain activity experienced during normal dreams?

xi) Senses

If our Virtual Reality system is able to stimulate all 5 senses through advanced technology, you could program it to make the user believe that there is no time anymore!

It would be possible to create a virtual reality world where time does not exist for the user. The brain would believe that this type of experience actually happened and would record it in memory, which would make it seem like it took place over a long period of time even if only seconds or minutes passed.

xii) Other —

It’s possible that we are all able to manipulate our perception of time already, but we may be unaware of it. Maybe it’s just a feeling of boredom, having free time on your hands. Maybe it’s a chance to do something new and unique every day.

In addition, maybe it’s a change in diet or different hobbies that could change the way we perceive time. Maybe you could use VR in order to train someone’s brain in order to extend their lifespan or slow down their perception of time without feeling old.

Harms of using VR for manipulating time

Yes, it can cause some harms, especially during the initial stages of VR time manipulation turning into a reality:

a) Causing Psychological Distress

A user can potentially distort the perception of how much time has passed in the real world while they are in VR. This is harmful because it can cause psychological distress in people who have a strong belief in time as a progression or movement.

b) Individualized Intervention

One of the things that scare me is that people may enter into Virtual Reality expecting some emotional input but find out that they are not getting what they expected.

Instead of having experienced something good, they could experience something horrid and traumatizing, which would make them long to exit the VR because they have no way to escape it!

c) Psychological Effects

Prolonged use of Virtual Reality can have a strong impact on the person psychologically. Especially if the design of a VR world is to be pleasant and not scary, then it’s possible to make Virtual Reality scary enough that it becomes similar to drugs.

d) Delay in Progress

If you are watching a movie about people in an old time; the last 20 minutes of the movie would be in slow motion because you felt bored with what was happening.

Using Virtual Reality, people could experience this effect where they would find that time goes faster at certain points in an experience, which would delay their progress as they would want to stay longer inside the world.

e) Unfavorable perception of time passing

If you were to use VR as a form of transportation, you may find that time passes differently while you are in the VR world. That would cause problems if another person expects or expects you to be somewhere at a certain time.

f) Manipulation of perceptions

The perception that it is possible to manipulate the speed of the passage of time using Virtual Reality will cause changes in the mind of a user oftentimes leading to psychological effects.

Getting over the wrong expectations can be harmful to some people who will tinker with their state until they would feel like they are losing their minds.

g) No way out

This is definitely the most terrifying one of all. If you manage to enjoy the virtual world forever, it’s still fine. But what if it was not fun? You could literally get stuck inside it with a real sense of time. What could be more terrifying?

Virtual Reality is a still fairly new technology, and we are just starting to learn how we can use it.

Although new research published in JMIR Mental Health has found that virtual reality (VR) can be useful in the treatment of anxiety and depression, people with such health problems may encounter more difficulty than others when it comes to controlling the perception of time in Virtual Reality.

I think technology is getting there. But I don’t think that we can control this kind of technology. And there will always be circumstances where time manipulation could have negative effects on a person’s psychology.

We will see how this technology develops over time. But for now, I recommend that people who suffer from severe anxiety disorders or depression should avoid using VR for entertainment purposes.

Is this related to time travel?

There are some people who believe that time travel is possible using the technology of Virtual Reality. Time travel itself can’t exist unless time exists, so time doesn’t exist in the first place. Also, the future is different from what science fiction writers have imagined.

So how could a user “travel” to the past or future? Using Virtual Reality to manipulate time could create an experience where it feels like they are at a different point in time and space than they would expect to be experiencing if they were standing and watching it happen right now.

This would give a user the sense that they were actually traveling through space and through time, but their body remained stationary. It is possible that this is what time travelers will experience when traveling in the future, but it does not mean that time has passed at the same speed for them and their friends, family, and pets.

Virtual reality can be a way to experiment with all sorts of things, from traveling to the past, or creating a new life for ourselves where we won’t have any bad memories.

But we are not talking about the current-day VR goggles, of course. The future of VR technology is going to be different. read more

As I mentioned before, what we are talking about here is not actually time travel, but rather a sense of time manipulation where it feels like time has passed differently in our minds.

The future of virtual reality is certain — the future is virtual reality.

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