Now You Can Feel Wind and Temperature While in Virtual Reality

New virtual reality add-on Ambiotherm uses fans to mimic the wind and a neck-worn module to replicate temperature to bring more elements into virtual worlds.

As more senses are brought into VR tech, the experience will become better for users, eventually reaching a point when VR and reality become nearly indistinguishable.

Realistic visuals and audio are essential to shaping an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience. But these researchers from the National University of Singapore believe VR shouldn’t just cater to sight and sound. For the ultimate VR experience, other senses should come into play as well.

The add-on contains two features. One is a a wind module attached to the bottom of the headset that uses two fans to simulate wind blowing in the wearer’s face. The other is a temperature module that attaches to the back of the wearer’s neck to simulate heat. Various experiments show that gradual application of each module can mimic how the whole body would actually feel if, for example, the wearer was walking through a desert under the scorching sun or skiing down a mountain slope.

Last year, Nimesha Ranasinghe and his team demonstrated how electrodes can be used to add a sense of taste to VR. Their latest accessory, Ambiotherm, adds another element of realism to the experience: atmosphere.

Previous attempts to recreate environmental conditions required fans and heat lamps, so being able to scale this down to something compact is a significant achievement. Next up for the team? Amping up the VR experience via smell and vibrations, as well as learning how human emotion can be augmented and applied to multi-sensory VR.