We experience virtual reality indirectly through glasses and controllers, but a new mask could give us first-hand insight into a potentially horrific Metaverse experience.
Virtual and augmented reality is supposed to allow us to easily go to places we can’t physically reach or experience things that would be impossible according to the laws of physics. Being able to roam the surface of Mars without worrying about breathing is one of the many experiences the metaverse promises to offer, sooner or later. However, at the same time, some people criticize these experiences as being downright fake and unbelievable because you can only see and not smell or smell the real thing. For better or worse, a team of researchers is at least trying to clone the way you breathe in virtual worlds, but this could make them so real that our brains and bodies won’t be able to tell what’s real. not.
Designers: Markus Tatzgern, Michael Domhardt, Martin Wolf, Michael Singer, Gerlind Emsenhuber, Radomir Denek, Natalie Gerner, Arnulf Hartl
Virtual reality devices naturally start with the eyes and ears, these are the easiest and most important senses to deceive in order to create a state of disbelief. No matter how convincing this illusion is, it disintegrates when you start trying to move and interact with the virtual world, which is what happens in the real world via consoles while remaining completely still. Much of the research and development of the technologies that will drive the so-called Metaverse revolves around more believable navigation and interaction, such as the use of gloves and treadmills. Very few deal with the authenticity of the smell or at least the act of breathing.
Researchers from the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Austria are studying a virtual experiment to create a mask design to restrict airflow to control the resistance to breathing, and thus the breathing ability of the wearer. The prototype looks like a miserable white gas mask and almost hints at the rather serious and awkward application of this tool. The end product would look more refined, assuming something like this would be manufactured commercially in the first place.
Almost as simple when you first hear about it, the idea is about making the virtual experience more believable by tricking your body into thinking it’s dealing with real-world situations. Walking through a burning house may not smell like the real thing, but a mask can regulate and restrict airflow until you have the same difficulty breathing as if you were in a real fire. This can activate the brain’s natural fight-or-flight response, bringing the experience closer to reality without endangering the wearer. Hopefully the wearer will be physically fit to withstand this kind of stress.
Conversely, a person’s breathing can also be used as an additional means of controlling their virtual avatar, making their digital counterpart appear as cumbersome as in the real world. Doors can also open for activities and games that normally require blowing air, such as blowing candles or blowing balloons. The mask can also be used as a control and monitoring device for simulation training of firefighters and emergency personnel.
The same people who criticize virtual reality for being blatantly fake can also criticize this kind of invention for going too far and making the experience too realistic. In a way, realism might actually take away some of the appeal of the Metaverse, particularly the ability to experience different places, worlds, and things without having to worry about hyperventilation. Of course, there will be ideal experiences with breathing controllers, such as horror games or exercise activities, but most people will probably try to do without the additional equipment. Alternatively, this mask may be more useful for medical applications, as it helps medical staff diagnose a patient’s well-being through controlled and regulated breathing.