Ever wanted the feelings of spiders in and around your mouth on demand, whenever you want? Well, you’re in luck, you wonderful weirdo, because VR is coming to the rescue.
New haptics are always being worked on in VR and according to IFLSciencea group of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University Future Interfaces Group are really going the extra mile. The team set up a Oculus Quest 2 with ultrasonic transducers, which can generate ultrasonic energy. For some reason, they aimed this directly at the mouth to add unique sensations to the VR experience.
The energy directed into your mouth creates sensations that can be pulsations, or sliding motions across your lips, or continuous vibrations, all at different speeds and intensities. It is said that they can approach real feelings like wind, or maybe, yes, even spiders.
I keep coming back to the spiders because this is one of the demos portrayed in the video above. It shows someone walking through a haunted forest with cobwebs and how the gliding motion is used by the ultrasonic transducers to mimic the sensation of the web passing across your face. Then a spider jumps at the player and more haptics are activated so you can actually feel all eight legs trying to get into its reluctant mouth.
The calmer and less completely insane iterations involved simulating a fountain of water against users’ lips or the sensation of drinking a coffee. It looks like there could be many uses for this new type of mouth-focused haptic feedback.
It would be even more interesting to see if this technology could be integrated with other recently tested haptics. The researchers are working chemical haptics for sensations like cold and heat, which could increase the effectiveness of these beverage simulations. There’s also speculation about virtual kissing booths, but I think I’ll stick with the spiders for now.
The team behind the ultrasonic transducers conducted research after people had experienced the new sensations. Overall, immersion was boosted by these new mouthfeeling introduced in VR. Given that they can be plugged into any headphones, they might actually reach the general public, although we don’t expect to see them anytime soon.