I’m 23, but right now I feel about 60. I’m standing on a small stage in a back room of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, my body encased in several pounds of plastic and sophisticated computer and processing equipment. The extra weight belted to my back and hips is designed to imitate the 25 percent increase in body mass I’ll accrue in my 60s and 70s, and the restraints on my extremities mimic the loss of muscle tone.
The heart-rate monitor clipped to my left forefinger keeps slipping — all these extra pounds are making me sweat. A heavy helmet weighs down my head. Attached to the helmet are headphones, which muffle all surrounding sound, and a pair of goggles with the futuristic look of a VR headset.
The goggles blur everything in front of me, but as Bran Ferren, the chief creative officer of Applied Minds and the engineer behind the suit I’m wearing, turns a remote dial, my vision gets even worse. “What do you see now?” Ferren asks as the dark edges of my visual field draw further and further inward, leaving just a tiny hole to see through. “Claustrophobia,” I say.
“This is commonly referred to as tunnel vision,” he says.