Virtual reality is all about suspending your disbelief and letting your mind pretend that you’re actually present in the space your eyes and ears are feeding you information about. That feeling of presence can be hard to achieve, so researchers working with VR have been experimenting with ways to add additional layers of immersion to the experience. One of the leading candidates is an accessory that actually lets you feel the weather in a VR space, mimicking both heat and wind so that the wearer actually feels like they’re there.
The device is called Ambiotherm, and it’s the brainchild of Nimesha Ranasinghe, who has been working on the project for several months already. It’s a combination of fans attached to the front of the VR headset and heating elements situated on the wearer’s neck that attempt to replicate the feeling of wind against the wearer’s face and the sun beating down on their back. When the wearer turns their head, the wind can also change directions, adding more realism to the virtual experience.
Ranasinghe, of the National University of Singapore, showed off a proof of concept of the Ambiotherm a few months ago, though it was still in a very early stage of development. The new version is more compact and aesthetically pleasing, with the fans now housed in an enclosure and the heating element appearing slightly less Matrix-esque. Still, it’s an extremely bulky and cumbersome add-on that will take a good deal of design changes to reach the point of being appealing, at least in a retail setting.