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Published on August 25th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise


VR System Tricks User into Feeling Hot or Cold by Hacking Your Nose

Emergent Insight:
Virtual reality (VR) is not a complete substitution for actual reality because innovators are still trying how to figure out how to replicate senses like touch, smell and taste. New ideas continue to surface as this post from Interesting Engineering by Fabienne Lang shows. Who knew that our sense of smell played such a big role in our sense of feeling degrees of things like temperature? University of Chicago researchers knew and developed this VR add-on that leverages our sense of smell for environmental sensing. This is the type of innovation that will one day lead us to full immersion with VR. It needs to be done. It has to be done. It is key to the journey leading to complete virtual reality.

Original Article:
Photo source: University of Chicago

Smells play a role in how we sense temperature.

VR systems are becoming more and more a part of people’s lives, and what they can do nowadays is already impressive. They allow you to visually experience a virtual world and to touch and feel what’s also happening.

Now, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago has also added another dimension to VR systems: temperature. 

The team has found a way for the user to experience temperature changes from hot to cold and back again through our sense of smell. Talk about combining a number of different senses!

Virtual Reality taken to another level

The VR system developed by the University of Chicago researchers is power efficient and impressive. The team found a method of essentially hacking into your face, more specifically your nose, in order to create hot and cold temperatures that you can feel just by breathing.

The team uses specific chemicals to access the trigeminal nerve in your nose, which connects your brain to most of your face. For instance, when you smell peppermint the sensation it gives you in a specific part of your face is coolness, that’s due to the menthol in the peppermint that triggers a receptor in your trigeminal nerve. The opposite can be said of hot peppers.

VR System Tricks User into Feeling Hot or Cold by Hacking Your Nose
The VR smell system, SourceUniversity of Chicago

And what the team figured out was by aerosolizing one of these smells into a chemical and then puffing it up to your nose, it could make you feel a temperature change. 

The trick was to not actually make the user smell anything, but just experience the temperature change. “The temperature sensation was largely localized to the face and definitely tied to breathing,” first author Jas Brooks told IEEE Spectrum. “I didn’t smell anything, but I felt an increasing sense of warmth as though my face was being warmed by sunlight for a while.”

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