Thursday, March 05, 2009

"3D: 'Virtual Cocoon' aims to engage all senses"

By engaging all five senses in a wrap-around headset, a team of U.K. scientists are aiming for what they call "real virtuality," a term used to describe their goal of rendering an experience so vivid that users cannot tell it from the real thing. The researchers unveiled an early prototype of their "Virtual Cocoon" at a research conference in London this week. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the team led by professor David Howard, an electronics engineer at the University of York (England), will pool the expertise of university researchers across the U.K. ' For more than a decade, virtual reality has promised to provide immersive environments that can simulate different places and times for applications as diverse as military training to archaeology. Most previous attempts, however, concentrated on sight and hearing. Developers of the "Virtual Cocoon" claim it is the first attempt to render all five senses with a fidelity that rivals natural experiences.

BOTTOM LINE: Virtual reality has been a decade away for decades is seems. Nevertheless, these researchers will be the first to attempt to write algorithms that synthesize experiences involving all five senses. The project is just in the early stages, so estimates of possible results and a timeline are sketchy, but plan to keep an eye on this one for valuable contributions regarding optimization of multi-sensor fusion.