Saturday, 7 March 2009
Virtual Reality technology to let you see, hear, smell, taste and touch
The first virtual reality headset that can stimulate all five senses will be unveiled at a major science event in London on March 4th. What was it really like to live in Ancient Egypt? What did the streets there actually look, sound and smell like? For decades, Virtual Reality has held out the hope that, one day, we might be able visit all kinds of places and periods as ‘virtual’ tourists. To date, though, Virtual Reality devices have not been able to stimulate simultaneously all five senses with a high degree of realism.
With funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), scientists from the Universities of York and Warwick believe they have been able to pinpoint the necessary expertise to make this possible, in a project called ‘Towards Real Virtuality’. ‘Real Virtuality’ is a term coined by the project team to highlight their aim of providing a ‘real’ experience in which all senses are stimulated in such a way that the user has a fully immersive perceptual experience, during which s/he cannot tell whether or not it is real.
Teams at York and Warwick now aim to link up with experts at the Universities of Bangor, Bradford and Brighton to develop the ‘Virtual Cocoon’ - a new Real Virtuality device that can stimulate all five senses much more realistically than any other current or prospective device. For the user, the ‘Virtual Cocoon’ will consist of a headset incorporating specially developed electronics and computing capabilities. It could help unlock the full potential benefits of Real Virtuality in fields such as education, business and environmental protection. A mock-up of the Virtual Cocoon will be on display at ‘Pioneers 09’, an EPSRC showcase event to be held at London’s Olympia Conference Centre on Wednesday 4th March.