PORTLAND, Ore. By engaging all five senses in a wrap-around headset, a team of U.K. scientists are aiming for what they call "real virtuality," a term used to describe their goal of rendering an experience so vivid that users cannot tell it from the real thing.
The researchers unveiled an early prototype of their "Virtual Cocoon" at a research conference in London this week.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the team led by professor David Howard, an electronics engineer at the University of York (England), will pool the expertise of university researchers across the U.K.
For more than a decade, virtual reality has promised to provide immersive environments that can simulate different places and times for applications as diverse as military training to archaeology.
Most previous attempts, however, concentrated on sight and hearing. Developers of the "Virtual Cocoon" claim it is the first attempt to render all five senses with a fidelity that rivals natural experiences.
Howard, an expert on sound analysis and synthesis, started the project with professor Alan Chalmers at the University of Warwick, an expert in high-fidelity graphics who recently invented a method of generating electronically pre-determined smell recipes. The senses of taste and touch will be similarly simulated with devices that engage the tongue and skin. All five sense inputs would be optimized to render a realistic experience for user, the researchers claim.
|A mock-up of the Virtual Cocoon, a virtual reality helmet that engages all five senses, was unveiled during the Pioneers 09 conference.|
Their goal is to use electronics and embedded computing devices in a lightweight helmet that is inexpensive and comfortable enough to deliver applications as diverse as education, business and environmental protection. The team also plans to evaluate the ethical issues involved in immersive virtual environments that cannot be distinguished from the real world.