Latest VR Trend: Multisensory VR
Humans are sensory beings. We constantly use different senses to form our individual perception of our surroundings. But even though we are inherently wired to take in as much sensory info as we can, most of our devices are centered only around visual and auditory senses. Many virtual reality companies have started taking a multisensory approach, allowing a wholly immersive experience for users.
Stop and Smell the Roses, Virtually
Innovations in VR technology have now incorporated olfactory cues into various virtual experiences. Last year, a multisensory production company, The Feelies, in collaboration with Greenpeace and Alchemy VR, launched an exhibition entitled “Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon” in São Paulo, Brazil.
Using VR pods, the 360-degree footage of the Amazon incorporates sensory cues – from a range of perfumes and other scents, to heat and humidity – allowing for a rich and unparalleled narrative of the Amazon forest.
Marking the first-ever multisensory VR experience in Brazil, 5 pods have attracted hundreds of bookings and created support for the Munduruku, the indigenous people in the area, resisting destruction of their ancestral land.
Grace Boyle, Director of The Feelies, believes that through an immersive opportunity such as this, the message could reach audiences more effectively.
Meanwhile, other companies are taking a stab at applying olfactory virtual reality technology for other uses.
For instance, adult entertainment company CamSoda offers OhRoma, a sensory mask meant to be worn with a VR headset. Users select an assortment of aromas contained in cartridge slots that are placed inside the mask’s canisters.
OhRoma can be paired with a smartphone via the official app. The mask can then be programmed to produce specific aromas based on the video being played. Distinct scents include “fragrances”, “environments”, and of course, some very sensual options like “aphrodisiacs” and “private parts”.
A Tasty VR Treat
As human beings we can absorb different sensory inputs simultaneously. The best example is something we do everyday – enjoying a meal.
This is what Kokiri Lab focuses on with their Project Nourished, a VR gastronomic experience that simulates eating.
The team uses several devices to make it all seem real: a gyroscopic utensil that translates user’s movements into virtual reality; a virtual cocktail glass for beverages; an aromatic diffuser to imitate various food scents; and a bone conduction transducer, which imitates chewing sounds depending on the virtual food chosen.
When all these pieces of equipment are combined, even a simple gum could turn into a hearty steak dinner.
The technology is designed to help people with health concerns like obesity, dietary restrictions, and eating disorders. It can also be used to encourage children to form positive eating habits. Another interesting application is that it can offer a unique alternate reality dining experience – the opportunity to taste fictional foods from your favorite stories.
Another frontrunner in the quest for multisensory VR is Sensiks, which introduced the Sensory Reality Pod (SRP).
The SRP offers a multitude of sensory experiences including scents, temperature, airflow, tremble, tastes, and light frequencies. Activated with visual footage, these various virtual reality stimuli will make any simulation that much more realistic.
This is a great feature not only for entertainment and art, but also for therapeutic purposes.
For instance, current applications of the SRP include being used as a psychotherapeutic device for patients with trauma and PTSD. Sensiks has also partnered with Philadelphia, a healthcare facility in the Netherlands, whose goal is to improve the quality of life of clients with intellectual disabilities, fostering self-reliance through sensory reality.
These innovations hint that we’re on the road to a multisensory virtual reality landscape. While sound and picture still reign supreme in our digital experiences, there’s a whole lot of development happening now in the realm of sensory reality. It will just be a matter of time before something completely immersive becomes the new standard.