Mel Slater

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Mel Slater
Alma materLondon School of Economics (undergraduate)
University of Essex (MA)
London School of Economics (MSc)
University of London (D.Sc.)
Scientific career
FieldsVirtual Reality
Computer Graphics
Computer Science
InstitutionsVirtual Bodyworks
University of Barcelona
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya
ICREA (Catalan Institute of Research and Advanced Studies)
University College London
Queen Mary and Westfield College (now Queen Mary University of London
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Mel Slater is a computer scientist known for his work in virtual reality, in particular in the field of embodiment and presence in VR. He is currently Distinguished Investigator at  the University of Barcelona. He is Director of the Event Lab (Experimental Virtual Environments in Neuroscience and Technology) at the University of Barcelona. He is a co-Founder of Virtual Bodyworks Inc.. In 2005 he was awarded the IEEE Virtual Reality Career Award in Recognition of Pioneering Achievements in Theory and Applications of Virtual Reality.


Mel Slater is known for his research in virtual reality that started in the early 1990s.

He is Distinguished Investigator at the University of Barcelona, Spain. He is a member of the Faculty of Psychology, in the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology. He is a member of the Institute of Neurosciences at the University of Barcelona. He is co-Director of the Event Lab (Experimental Virtual Environments for Neuroscience and Technology).

His first degree was in Statistics at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and he went on to do a Masters in Sociology at the University of Essex, followed by a Masters in Statistics at London School of Economics.

He obtained a DSc (University of London) for studies on presence in virtual reality.


He joined Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London as a Lecturer in 1981, teaching statistics. Through his involvement in the “GLIM Working Party” (generalised linear interactive modelling) at Rothamsted Experimental Station he switched to computer graphics research and implemented “The Graphical Kernel System” an international standard. The implementation provided graphics for the GLIM project. He transitioned to teaching computer graphics at Queen Mary and Westfield College. He was Head of Department of Computer Science 1993-1995. In 1991 he obtained funding for a virtual reality system built by Division Inc, and began research in VR.

In 1995 he moved to the Department of Computer Science at University College London, and founded the Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics group, becoming Professor of Virtual Environments in 1997. He held an EPSRC Senior Research Fellowship from 1999-2005.

In 2006 he moved to take up a post as ICREA Research Professor in Barcelona, first at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and then in 2008 at the University of Barcelona, while maintaining part time affiliation and a research team at UCL until 2018.

In 2017 and 2018 he was Immersive Fellow at Digital Catapult.


Since the early 1990s his research has concentrated on virtual reality. He has carried out research on the concept of presence (the illusion of being in the virtual world) with his first paper on an experimental study in (Slater and Usoh, 1993[1]), followed up by numerous studies, discussed in (Sanchez-Vives and Slater, 2005[2]). He refined the concept of presence as a combination of the illusion of being there (‘Place Illusion’) and the illusion that events are really occurring (‘Plausibility’) (Slater, 2009[3]). He also invented a novel measurement technique based on these ideas (Slater et al., 2010a[4]).

He invented the technique known as walking-in-place that allows people to ‘walk’ through a virtual environment that is much larger than the physical space in which the action is taking place (Slater et al., 1993[5]; Slater et al., 1995[6]). In (Slater et al., 1994[7]) this work was continued and he introduced the idea of the ‘pit’ environment where people find themselves standing by a precipice in virtual reality.

In the 2000s his research switched towards body ownership in VR, where he demonstrated that the rubber hand illusion occurs in virtual reality (Slater et al., 2008[8]), and a whole body ownership illusion (Slater et al., 2010b[9]). He contributed with many studies to show the effect of the virtual body on attitudes and behaviours (Banakou et al., 2013[10]), notably its influence on racial bias (Peck et al., 2013[11]).

He developed a novel paradigm called ConVRself (conversations with yourself in VR) where through embodiment a person can occupy both sides of a conversation. It’s use in counselling was demonstrated in two papers (Osimo et al., 2015[12]; Slater et al., 2019[13]) and that got the The App Date prize the best VR application in Spain in 2015

He is author of over 350 scientific articles in the field of VR.

Mel Slater has been coordinator of European Projects PRESENCIA, PRESENCCIA and VERE (2010-2015), which consisted of 14 international interdisciplinary partners, to carry out research and applications of virtual and robotic embodiment, and associated ethics, as well as scientific leader of BEAMING. He has also held European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant TRAVERSE 2009-2015 and currently holds a second ERC Advanced Grant MoTIVE 2018-2022.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.


  • Co-Editor-in-Chief, Presence - Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, MIT Press, 2002-2014
  • Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers in Robotics and AI, 2014-2019
  • Speciality Chief Editor, Frontiers in Robotics and AI / Virtual Environments, 2014–present
  • Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers in Virtual Reality, 2019-present

Research Funding

Amongst other projects

  • He led the EU FET Integrated project VERE from 2010-2015, which consisted of 14 international interdisciplinary partners, to carry out research and applications of virtual and robotic embodiment, and associated ethics.
  • He held a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant TRAVERSE 2009-2015 and currently holds a second ERC Advanced Grant MoTIVE 2018-2022.
  • He received the IEEE Career Award in 2005.
  • He is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society.
  • He is one of the founders of the spin-off company Virtual Bodyworks.

Links of interest

He is the co-author of a book titled "Computer Graphics And Virtual Environments: From Realism to Real-Time"[14]

He has appeared on various news articles such as the BBC[15][16][17][18][19][20][21], Road to VR[22], the New York Post[23] and others.

In the media



  1. Slater, Mel; Usoh, Martin (1993). "The influence of a virtual body on presence in immersive virtual environments". Virtual Reality International (Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference on Virtual Reality): 34–42.
  2. Sanchez-Vives, Maria V; Slater, Mel (2005). "From Presence to Consciousness Through Virtual Reality". Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 6: 332–339. doi:10.1038/nrn1651.
  3. Slater, Mel (2009). "Place Illusion and Plausibility can lead to realistic behaviour in immersive virtual environments". Philos Trans R Soc Lond. 364: 3549–3557. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0138.
  4. Slater, Mel; Spanlang, Bernhard; Corominas, David (July 2010). "Simulating virtual environments within virtual environments as the basis for a psychophysics of presence". ACM Transactions on Graphics. 29 (4): 92. doi:10.1145/1778765.1778829.
  5. Slater, Mel; Steed, Anthony; Usoh, Martin (September 1993). "The virtual treadmill: A naturalistic metaphor for navigation in immersive virtual environments". First Eurographics Workshop on Virtual Environments (Accepted for publication in a Springer Verlag book to appear in 1995, on Virtual Environments, after a further refereeing process): 71–83. doi:10.1007/978-3-7091-9433-1_12.
  6. Slater, Mel; Usoh, Martin; Steed, Anthony (September 1995). "Taking steps: the influence of a walking technique on presence in virtual reality". ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction. 2 (3): 201–219. doi:10.1145/210079.210084.
  7. Slater, Mel; Usoh, Martin; Steed, Anthony (1994). "Steps and ladders in virtual reality". Proceedings of the Conference on Virtual Reality Software and Technology: 45–54.
  8. Slater, Mel; Perez-Marcos, Daniel; Ehrsson, H Henrik; Sanchez-Vives, Maria V (August 2008). "Towards a digital body: The virtual arm illusion". Front. Hum. Neurosci. 2 (6). doi:10.3389/neuro.09.006.2008.
  9. Slater, Mel; Spanlang, Bernhard; Sanchez-Vives, Maria V; Blanke, Olaf (May 2010). "First person experience of body transfer in virtual reality". PLOS ONE. 5 (5). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010564.
  10. Banakou, Domna; Groten, Raphaela; Slater, Mel (June 2013). "Illusory ownership of a virtual child body causes overestimation of object sizes and implicit attitude changes". PNAS. 110 (31): 12846–12851. doi:10.1073/pnas.1306779110.
  11. Peck, Tabitha C; Seinfeld, Sofia; Aglioti, Salvatore M; Slater, Mel (September 2013). "Putting yourself in the skin of a black avatar reduces implicit racial bias". Consciousness and cognition. 22 (3): 779–787. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2013.04.016.
  12. Osimo, Sofia Adelaide; Pizarro, Rodrigo; Spanlang, Bernhard; Slater, Mel (September 2015). "Conversations between self and self as Sigmund Freud – A virtual body ownership paradigm for self counselling". Scientific Reports. 5 (13899). doi:10.1038/srep13899.
  13. Slater, Mel; Neyret, Solène; Johnston, Tania; Iruretagoyena, Guillermo; Crespo, Mercè Álvarez de la Campa; Alabèrnia-Segura, Miquel; Spanlang, Bernhard; Feixas, Guillem (July 2019). "An experimental study of a virtual reality counselling paradigm using embodied self-dialogue". Scientific Reports. 9 (10903). doi:10.1038/s41598-019-46877-3.
  14. Slater, Mel; Chrysanthou, Yiorgos; Steed, Anthony (2002). Computer graphics and virtual environments - from realism to real-time. Addison-Wesley. ISBN 978-0-201-62420-5.
  15. "Real-world beaming: The risk of avatar and robot crime". BBC News. 2012-05-11. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  16. "Making Time: Can we teach kindness?". BBC News. 2013-10-03. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  17. "Can virtual reality be used to tackle racism?". BBC News. 2013-11-28. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  18. "Study creates 'time travel' illusion". BBC News. 2014-08-22. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  19. "Virtual therapy 'helps with depression', researchers say". BBC News. 2016-02-15. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  20. "Could virtual reality treat anxiety?". BBC News. 2017-11-09. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  21. Geddes, Linda. "Can you ever change a violent psychopath's mind?". Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  22. Bye, Kent (2017-07-14). "Mel Slater's Theory of VR Presence vs an Elemental Theory of Presence". Road to VR. Retrieved 2020-10-28.
  23. Cahalan, Susannah (2020-10-10). "How virtual reality therapy can cure PTSD, obesity and even the pain of childbirth". New York Post. Retrieved 2020-10-28.

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