Taking VR Gaming To The Next Level

A research team in Singapore has developed an interactive, multisensory virtual reality game.

AsianScientist (Nov. 28, 2019) – Researchers in Singapore and Japan have developed a mixed virtual reality game that includes multisensory interaction and experiences for players. They debuted their game at the Tokyo Game Show 2019.

Mixed reality games often only engage the player’s sense of sight and hearing via the head-mounted display. However, the other senses—smell, taste and touch—have yet to be deeply explored by game developers to deliver even more immersive experiences.

Now, researchers at the Keio-National University of Singapore Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments Center (Keio NUS CUTE) are able to fuse four sensory streams simultaneously in a virtual reality (VR) game to achieve remarkable realism.

Called ‘The Lost Foxfire’, the ten-minute game engages a player’s sight, hearing, smell, touch and heat perception. Besides relying on their vision and hearing, game players will also need to take cues from their senses of smell and touch to successfully complete the game.

In ‘The Lost Foxfire’, players take on the role of a caretaker who is left in charge of looking after an old Japanese temple for one night. However, a Foxfire spirit bride who is on her way to her wedding got lost in the temple. She wanders about the temple grounds and has the tendency to set fire to everything she touches. Players will need to save the temple from burning down by putting out the fires that the distressed Foxfire spirit has started, and catching the original spirit from its numerous decoys to stop it from starting more fires.

The entire game system comprises a VR headset that is paired with a configurable multisensory suit that delivers thermal, wind and olfactory stimuli to the players to assist them in finding and, subsequently, stopping the Foxfire spirit from burning down the temple.

The adjustable suit is equipped with five heat modules that enable players to sense heat on the front, back and the sides of their necks, as well as on their faces. The thermal stimuli can be calibrated and customized to an individual’s tolerance of warmth.

As players spray the original Foxfire spirit with a fire extinguisher, they will catch a whiff of the scent of apples, a favorite fruit of foxes. As players get close to the real Foxfire, they can feel the heat it emits.

“The set up for ‘The Lost Foxfire’ game system is entirely portable so it can be put up in any room. The additional sensory cues in the form of heat and smell create a more immersive gameplay environment for the players, something rarely seen in current games,” said Associate Professor Yen Ching-Chiuan, co-director of the Keio-NUS CUTE Center who supervises on the project.

Although ‘The Lost Foxfire’ was first developed as an experimental game, its immersive simulation and experiential technology can be potentially extended to other applications. Besides paving the way for more immersive gaming experience to come, it could, for instance, be used to simulate unique scenarios for training purposes or to demonstrate fire safety so that users can safely experience a first-hand feel of the full scenario without the danger.

The team is open to collaboration opportunities and is currently in discussion with a few interested parties. A patent has been filed for the technology behind the configurable multisensory suit.


Source: National University of Singapore.
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