Research teams from York University and Warwick University, along with experts from the universities of Bangor, Bedford, and Brighton, are working to create new virtual reality systems. The researchers are currently working on a headset-based virtual reality system called the Virtual Cocoon, which simulates all five senses. “Smell and taste are probably the hardest things to do,” says York professor David Howard. Howard and Warwick’s Alan Chalmers believe that if they present smells in very small doses by releasing them very close to the nose via a tube under the nose, smell could be fairly tightly controlled. Howard says smell is important because the majority of taste is based on smell, though the Virtual Cocoon may also use some form of tongue stimulator to provide textual information on whether virtual food is hard, soft, or crunchy. The Virtual Cocoon could be used for a variety of applications, including training simulations, educational trips to remote destinations, or medical consultations. Howard says the lack of reality in many current training simulators means that they cannot produce the sensory overload often experienced in moments of danger or extreme stress.
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