The Ambiotherm brings a whole new level of immersion to virtual reality with realistic weather simulations.
The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have allowed us to view the virtual world, the Nosulus Rift and OhRoma give us the ability to smell the virtual world and thanks to the efforts of Professor Nimesha Ranasinghe and his team at the National University of Singapore, we’ll soon be able to feel part of the virtual world as well.
Dubbed The Ambiotherm, the unique device sits comfortably on top of preexisting VR headsets and uses a custom mobile application to generate artificial temperature and weather. Two rotating fans placed in front of the user’s face simulate the sensation of wind, while a temperature module placed on the user’s neck heats up or cools down depending on the virtual experience or environment. For example: Imagine trudging through a barren desert wasteland with only dune after dune within sight for miles.
The Ambiotherm heats the back of your neck as the virtual sun beats down on you and you’re so immersed you start actually believing you’re lost in an endless sea of sand. Just then you spot an oasis in the distance. As you jump into the crystal-clear water the device finally begins soothingly cooling your neck. A breeze rattles the trees and the twin fans activate, replicating a refreshing gust of wind directly hitting your face as you close your eyes and gaze up at the digital sky in pure satisfaction. Oh yeah, now you’re excited.
Although the Ambiotherm is directed only at the head and neck of the user, Ranasinghe and his team have discovered that continued use of the device can result in sensations eventually being felt throughout the entire body. This means that staying hooked up long enough could actually trick your body into believing, and physically responding, to the effects. Right now the device features two environments to showcase its technology, desert and snowy mountain. Plans for a consumer market release have yet to be announced.
This is exactly the kind of forward-thinking technology that will eventually make VR indistinguishable from reality. These small, sensory experiences add entirely new levels of immersion that could take an experience from potentially interesting, to absolutely incredible.