A lot of progress has been made when it comes to virtual-reality visuals, with head-worn gear bringing digital worlds to life right in front of your eyes. But what about your nose and your skin? If you really want to feel like you're on a "Star Trek" holodeck, you need the whole experience. This is where the FeelReal virtual-reality mask (beware of auto-play video) hopes to step up.
FeelReal is worn below your VR visor. It contains an odor generator (Smell-O-Vision!), wind generators, water mist openings and a microphone. You can already imagine what this feels like. You've donned your Oculus Rift and stepped onto a digital beach. Seagulls clamor and the mist of the waves kisses your face. You take a deep breath and catch a whiff of salt and seaweed.
The mask operates over Bluetooth. It vibrates, which could be an interesting sensation if your character gets socked in the jaw in a game. A set of micro-coolers and micro-heaters means the wind blowing on your face can be hot or cold, depending on the gaming environment. FeelReal says the mask will run about four hours on a charge.
A working prototype is in existence and early adopters can preorder the mask for $249.99 (about £170, AU$328). The preorder package includes four scents: jungle, ocean, fire and wind. FeelReal specifies that the preorder is for developers and that the mask in not yet a consumer-ready product. Shipments are expected for this summer.
The idea of expanding virtual-reality environments to include weather and odor sensations is certainly intriguing, though there are some games you might not want to smell. What would a run through a Resident Evil game smell like? Futility and decaying zombies, probably. Delightful!