A virtual reality helmet that recreates the sights, smells, sounds and even tastes of far-flung holiday destinations has been devised by British scientists.
Armchair travellers wearing the device will be able to hear the roar of lions on safari, smell the flowers of an Alpine meadow or feel the heat of the Caribbean sun on their face -- all from the comfort of their sitting room.
The device will also allow people to greet friends and family on the other side of the world as if they were in same room, and to immerse themselves in fantasy worlds.
The virtual reality helmet titillates all five body senses while viewers sit at home on their sofas
It will even allow students to explore history -- and find out what it was really like to live in Ancient Egypt, Rome or Greece.
Scientists have been developing virtual reality devices for nearly two decades. But until now, most have only been able to recreate sound and vision.
Now a team of British academics from York and Warwick universities have launched a project to create the first authentic VR helmet -- a device that stimulates the senses so convincingly they have called in Real Virtuality.
The Virtual Cocoon will consist of a headset packed with specially developed electronics -- including a high definition, high dynamic computer screen, state of the art speakers, fans to blow hot and cold air over the wearer's face and a 'smell tube' which releases chemicals under the nose to mimic real life odours.
Prof Alan Chalmers of Warwick said the headset should be complete in three to five years. He believes it will be used in long distance business meetings, in schools to allow students to revisit history, or by families wanting to get a taste of far-flung destinations.
It will also be popular among computer games enthusiasts -- particularly those who enjoy virtual role play games such as Second Life.
'The idea is not to replace reality but to complement it,' he said at an event organised by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 'You can get a taster of reality in a safe and controlled way.'
The prototype helmet connects wirelessly to a computer which feeds it information about a virtual world or a another part of the real world.
It features a high dynamic screen -- which uses a combination of LED and LCD technology to produce pictures that are 10 times darker, or 30 times brighter, than conventional television.
A tube connected to a box of chemicals will release smells under the wearer's nose, while a similar device can squirt flavours directly into the mouth.
The heat and humidity can be changed using a fan and heater, while surround sound speakers recreate noise.
Prof Chalmers believes owners will be able to buy computer software that allows them to explore virtual worlds.
It should be possible too to explore other parts of the world in real time.
A recording device attached to a car could record the sights, smells, sounds and feel of a safari and transmit the sensations over the internet to a Virtual Cocoon on the other side of the world.
Professor David Howard of the University of York, lead scientist on the initiative, says: 'Virtual Reality projects have typically only focused on one or two of the five senses -- usually sight and hearing. We’re not aware of any other research group anywhere else in the world doing what we plan to do.
'Smell will be generated electronically via a new technique being pioneered by Alan Chalmers and his team at Warwick which will deliver a predetermined smell recipe on-demand.
'Taste and smell are closely linked but we intend to provide a texture sensation relating to something being in the mouth. Tactile devices will provide touch.'
The helmet could also be used in training soldiers, police officers, medics or fire fighters.
Designers are currently working on a price for the device which initial estimates place at around £1,500 ($632.00).
WHAT HAS SCIENCE DONE!!?!
I seriously can't wait to be able to try this. Can anyone say the MATRIX?
Oh well fuck real life.