March 10, 2009 To date most virtual reality devices have been focused on providing input for just two senses – sight and hearing - and while haptic technologies are on the march, we've yet to see a complete VR system that convincingly mimics all aspects of our perception. In a taste of what could be, last week at the Pioneer 09 science show in London researchers unveiled a mock-up of a virtual reality headset designed to stimulate all five senses.
The team responsible for the headset have coined the term ‘Real Virtuality’ to highlight the ‘real’ experience they hope to deliver with the device, which they call a ‘Virtual Cocoon’. This ‘Virtual Cocoon’ will consist of a headset incorporating specially developed electronics and computing capabilities. Smell will be generated electronically using a technique that will deliver a pre-determined smell recipe on-demand while the team intend to provide a texture sensation relating to something being in the mouth and tactile devices will provide touch input.
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The project team consists of scientists from the Universities of York and Warwick with funding for the project coming from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). One of the team's key objectives is to optimize the way all five senses interact, as in real life. The team also aim to make the Virtual Cocoon much lighter, more comfortable and less expensive than existing devices, as a result of the improved computing and electronics they aim to develop.
Going by the pic provided though, the team hasn’t been able to overcome the ‘virtual reality headsets look ridiculous’ conundrum. According to the group potential uses of the technology include historical recreations, telemedicine, training, virtual tourism, and last but not least gaming and recreation.