Smell-O-Vision has arrived! Do you have your virtual reality helmet handy and are you ready for the experiences you are about to have? Let’s see what the Brits have cooked up for us!
British scientists at York and Warwick Universities have come up with a virtual reality helmet that, they say, can simulate all 5 of the human senses that it takes to create a real virtual image: taste, feeling, sight, smell and sound. In fact, they have renamed their version of virtual reality technology, Real Virtuality.
Most VR helmets are designed to be lighter in weight and less obtrusive, so as not to interfere with the simulated environment of virtual reality. But the monster helmet the Brit scientists have developed looks like it belongs on a space suit. The prototype version of the virtual reality helmet is large, with a serious, front-mounted, surround-screen that is high definition in its output, producing images 30 times brighter or darker than the average television. A fan and heating system is installed to create the sense of heat and humidity or cooling breezes.
This wireless system communicates with a computer to bring reality to this virtual reality helmet. Besides the usual sight and auditory systems, the helmet comes equipped with a system to spray flavours to taste into the mouth of the user and a scent dispenser to envelope the user in scents that would accompany whatever is being experienced. Personally, I wouldn’t mind the floral scent of an Alpine meadow, but I wouldn’t care about the skunk that might come waddling my way!
So, Smell-O-Vision is here, and it should be available in 5 years, the scientists tell us, at a cost of roughly $2,200.00 USD.
In all seriousness, the British scientists believe that this virtual reality helmet, once refined, will be advantageous to education, business and families the world over. Conference calls will seem like having a meeting in the same room, even though participants might be on different continents. Imagine seeing and talking to your grandparents, who are clear across the country, and being able to smell your grandmother’s perfume? It will be as though they were right there with you in your living room. And what about ancient history? School children would be able to utilize the VR helmet to visit ancient Rome or other historical places.
I am reminded of the movie, Brainstorm. In this 1983 movie, Christopher Walken’s character is a scientist, right on the verge of finalizing such a virtual reality helmet. The consequences it has for military applications are, of course, scary, and that becomes the plot of the movie. But what about being able to walk along the Champs Elysees with your cousin and experience the sidewalk cafes of France-in realtime-and all from the comfort of your living room. That time is almost here!
The virtual reality helmet may look a bit cumbersome now, but I’ll bet, in 5 years, they will have figured out how to streamline and modify it so that it won’t look like you want to be an astronaut when you grow up.