Virtual Reality headset simulates all five senses

Virtual Reality headset simulates all five senses

A mock-up of the VIrtual Cocoon was demonstrated at the Pioneers 09 event in London yesterday.

Remember when virtual reality started to make a name for itself in the early 1990s? Let’s face it, those brightly-coloured angular worlds and faceless people just weren’t realistic enough to suck you into computers as they did in awful films such as The Lawnmower Man, whether you were wearing a ridiculous suit or not. However, researchers from five UK universities are clubbing together on a new project called “Towards Real Virtuality” (see what they’ve done there?), which is developing a headset that will simulate all five human senses.

The object of the project is to develop what the team calls a "Virtual Cocoon," which the researchers describe as a "device that can stimulate all five senses much more realistically than any other current or prospective device." Originally initiated by researchers at York and Warwick universities, the Real Virtuality project has now received funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and researchers from the universities of Bangor, Bradford and Brighton have now also been brought into the fold.

A mock-up of the Virtual Cocoon was displayed at Pioneers 09 yesterday, which is an EPSRC showcase event at Kensington’s Olympia Conference Centre. The University of York’s Professor David Howard, the lead scientist on the project, explained that “Virtual Reality projects have typically only focused on one or two of the five senses – usually sight and hearing. We’re not aware of any other research group anywhere else in the world doing what we plan to do.”

So how does the team plan to go beyond sight and hearing? Howard claims that “smell will be generated electronically via a new technique being pioneered by Alan Chalmers and his team at Warwick which will deliver a pre-determined smell recipe on-demand. Taste and smell are closely linked but we intend to provide a texture sensation relating to something being in the mouth. Tactile devices will provide touch.”

A number of applications have been suggested for the technology, including virtual tourism, and the EPSRC gives the example of finding out what it was like to live in Ancient Egypt, including the look, sound and smell of the streets. The team aims to make the Virtual Cocoon as light and comfortable as possible, especially in comparison with existing Virtual Reality headsets, and “optimise the way all five senses interact, as in real life.”

The final aim of the project is to stimulate the senses to such a degree that “the user has a fully immersive perceptual experience, during which s/he cannot tell whether or not it is real.” However, Howard was keen to point out that the team also planned to “closely evaluate the full, far-reaching economic and other implications of more widespread application of Real Virtuality technologies for society as a whole.”

Do you think you could really lose yourself in a Virtual Cocoon to the point where you didn’t know where you don’t know what’s real? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

Via Science Daily


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Bauul 5th March 2009, 10:41 Quote
Originally Posted by Article
Taste and smell are closely linked but we intend to provide a texture sensation relating to something being in the mouth.

They're going to put me in a vizorless helmet and stick things in my mouth. Somehow I can only see the porn industry being interested in this.
Silver51 5th March 2009, 10:49 Quote
The images in the daily mail's article make it look a lot less like someone sticking their head in a salad spinner.

Not sure I'd want to wear a helmet that fired chemicals up my nose. Virtual tourism is one thing,* but it'd be downright foolhardy for gaming use. I'd give it 30 seconds before somebody mods a dog poo into your online game.

* Although for the £1500 predicted asking price, it might be cheaper just to do it the analogue way.
proxess 5th March 2009, 11:03 Quote
We've all seen this in the movies and games... this is the beginning of the Matrix (Matrix), the end of male and female breeding (that Stalone movie), they will use it for military and assassin training (Assassin's Creed). We're all doomed (Doom).
Major 5th March 2009, 11:22 Quote
Virtual pr0n 4tw!!!
Bauul 5th March 2009, 11:32 Quote
Originally Posted by proxess
the end of male and female breeding (that Stalone movie)

"They called him... the Demolition Man!"
Silver51 5th March 2009, 11:37 Quote
Originally Posted by Major
Virtual pr0n 4tw!!!

Why?! Why would you want pr0n juice blasted up your nose?

edit: I really hope you have to buy the scents specifically for the virtual environment. Dead giveaway when picking up refills from Tescos.
War-Rasta 5th March 2009, 12:40 Quote
Those nose thingys look rather uncomfortable. I can see myself getting a nose itch every time I put this on. It'll probably do well for specific applications such as combat training and the already mentioned virtual tourism (which I hope is only used by travel agencies as a preview of where they intend to send you to or else tourism would become the lamest thing in the world) but I don't think I'd need to know how a splicer smells in Bioshock, or even worst! That poo level on Conker's...
Blademrk 5th March 2009, 13:12 Quote
it's almost like the pods used in that Stargate SG1 (the one with Murdoc from the Ateam) where no-one realizes they're in a virtual world...
edzieba 5th March 2009, 14:27 Quote
Looks like they're trying to solve the "High res microdisplays and compact optics are EXPENSIVE" problem by projecting onto a surface. Bulky, but for the near future it'll be both cheaper and higher quality than more compact alternatives. Would need some interesting polarisation (4 projectors minimum) or high-speed-shutter systems (120Hz minimum) for stereoscopic 3D though.
harveypooka 5th March 2009, 14:43 Quote
How dare you insult The Lawnmower Man.

I have hopes that one day my simian like intelligence will be developed to that of the Gods, via virtual reality and spinny thingys.
kenco_uk 5th March 2009, 14:50 Quote
Hmm, all the phones are ringing. Weird.
OleJ 5th March 2009, 22:44 Quote
sTimulate.... not simulate... you seem to mix it up with every mention...
Cupboard 6th March 2009, 11:57 Quote
Hmm... here come skeptical me again.
I would usually happily lend one of my friends my PC for an afternoon if I wasn't using it but there is no way I want them sticking my nostril pipes up their nose, I'll come back and find someone else's bogeys on my headset thing. Eww.
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