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Yifei Chai

MA work

Pretender Project

If you could be anyone for one day, who would you be?

Where would you be?

What would you do?

The Pretender Project allows you to step into the body of another person.

It is inspired by the Proteus Effect, a psychological phenomenon where the behaviour of an individual operating under a digital persona in virtual reality experiences such as games, adapts to conform to that persona and continues to exhibit behaviour even after leaving the virtual environment. Could this effect also take place in real-life environments with people becoming avatars for others?

The Pretender Project utilises a series of readily available technologies and algorithms to offer a glimpse into this future. A realistic virtual environment is created, by employing microphones and headphones for sound; dual wide-angle cameras and the virtual reality Oculus Rift for transferred vision; and the motion sensing Kinect and electric muscle stimulation for synchronised motion.

In the first step on this journey, the Pretender Project explores what it means to control and be controlled. As individuals step into the body of another person, they experience first hand, real social interactions, and have the opportunity to assume the physical behaviours (and in the long term even personalities) of someone else without physical restrictions. The Pretender Project is a first, one of a kind, real-life identity exploration tool. The project also opens up a world of opportunity for potential applications in medicine particularly psychology and neuroscience, by offering a unique perspective into social interaction, validation and empathy.


  • Yifei Chai
  • MA Degree


    School of Design


    MA Innovation Design Engineering, 2014

  • Since childhood, I have experienced different cultures and social environments, contrary opinions and paradoxical points of view. Through these experiences I've learned not to take for granted absolute values but to analyse and take different perspectives for myself. 

    Graduating with First Class Honours from Central Saint Martins BA (Hons) Product Design, my work has won acknowledgement from many institutions and corporations, and published on magazines such as 2012 Credo XIV Magazine, Contagious Magazine, Tumblr and Lowe + Partners.

    Now studying on the MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art, I strive to gain a stronger engineering foundation and most importantly, to meet and work with multidisciplinary talents.

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Product Design, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, 2012
  • Experience

  • Placement: product design, Unit9, London, 2014-present; Workshop, Samsung, London, 2014; Branding consultant, MR Sports, Shanghai, 2013-14; Freelance product & system, Pernod Ricard, London, 2013; Freelance graphic design, Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, 2012; Internship: branding, CBi, Shanghai, 2011; Placement: product design, Tangerine, London, 2011; Design assistant, Branding & Marketing, Arevalo Studio, London, 2011; Internship: business, Linde, Shanghai, 2010
  • Exhibitions

  • Work-in-progress Show, Royal College of Art, 2013
  • Awards

  • Shortlisted, Lowe & Partners NOVA Award, 2012; Winner, Design Museum's Design Factory Student Symposium, Sustainable Futures, 2010