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Virtual world tests telepathy

University of Manchester scientists believe "objective environment" will decipher a true mind reader from a faker.

Scientists at the University of Manchester have created a virtual world to test telepathic ability.

Participants in a trial will wear a head-mounted 3D display and an electronic glove to navigate their way through a computer-generated world.

The people in the trial are placed in separate rooms on different floors of a building to eliminate any possibility of communication.

One will view a random selection of computer-generated objects--such as a telephone, a football and an umbrella--and will be asked to concentrate on and interact with one of them.

A second participant is simultaneously presented with the chosen object, plus three decoy objects, and asked to guess which object the other person is trying to transmit.

The system has been designed to make the task as realistic as possible. In addition to selecting objects and hearing the sounds they make, participants are able to hold and move them within the virtual environment.

"By creating a virtual environment, we are creating a completely objective environment, which makes it impossible for participants to leave signals or even unconscious clues as to which object they have chosen," Toby Howard of the university's School of Computer Science said in a statement.

The results of the experiment are expected to be published early in 2007.

Steve Ranger of reported from London.