Summary: Researchers have created a groundbreaking non-contact technology to simulate cold sensations in virtual reality, maintaining consistent skin temperatures.
By combining cold airflow and light, they induce cold sensations without actual temperature shifts. This breakthrough provides a novel approach to simulating persistent thermal experiences in VR environments, enhancing the user’s immersion.
The technology holds the promise of revolutionizing VR experiences by providing instantaneous and sustained thermal sensations.
The new non-contact technology offers cold sensations without altering skin temperature.
The system uses a blend of cold airflow and a light source to simulate rapid temperature changes.
This innovation is expected to elevate immersive experiences in virtual reality, particularly in the Metaverse, by simulating real-world thermal experiences.
Source: University of Tsukuba
Our skin plays a key role in perceiving temperature and the surroundings. For instance, we perceive the chill of the outdoors when our cheeks blush with cold, and we sense the onset of spring when our skin warms up gradually.
However, getting exposed to the same stimuli repeatedly, makes us accustomed to the stimuli, making it challenging to sense new sensations. This process, known as “temperature acclimatization,” can interfere with our ability to gauge temperature changes in a virtual reality (VR) environment while switching scenes.
In this study, the researchers have developed a non-contact technology for simulating a cold sensation that continually generates thermal experiences while maintaining nearly constant skin temperature. This innovative approach leverages human body’s natural sensitivity to rapid temperature changes.
The technology employs a combination of cold air flow and a light source to instantly switch between a quick cold and a gentle warm stimulus, inducing a cold sensation while maintaining the skin temperature fluctuations close to zero.
Evaluation results have demonstrated that this system can provide a virtual cold sensation without any actual change in temperature.
Moreover, the researchers have succeeded in replicating a cold sensation of the same intensity as one would experience with continuous skin temperature changes.
This breakthrough technology offers a novel perspective on simulating skin sensations without altering the body’s physical state.
It has the potential to enable immersive experiences in the world of VR, including the Metaverse, by offering not only instantaneous thermal sensations like a sudden cold breeze but also persistent thermal experiences over extended periods, akin to those encountered during international travel.
Funding: This work was supported in part by grants from JSPS KAKENHI (JP21H03474, JP21K19778) and in part by JST SPRING (JPMJSP2124).
About this neurotech and sensory perception research news
Integration of Independent Heat Transfer Mechanisms for Non-Contact Cold Sensation Presentation with Low Residual Heat
Thermal sensation is crucial to enhancing our comprehension of the world and enhancing our ability to interact with it. Therefore, the development of thermal sensation presentation technologies holds significant potential, providing a novel method of interaction. Traditional technologies often leave residual heat in the system or the skin, affecting subsequent presentations.
Our study focuses on presenting thermal sensations with low residual heat, especially cold sensations. To mitigate the impact of residual heat in the presentation system, we opted for a non-contact method, and to address the influence of residual heat on the skin, we present thermal sensations without significantly altering skin temperature. Specifically, we integrated two highly responsive and independent heat transfer mechanisms: convection via cold air and radiation via visible light, providing non-contact thermal stimuli.
By rapidly alternating between perceptible decreases and imperceptible increases in temperature on the same skin area, we maintained near-constant skin temperature while presenting continuous cold sensations.
In our experiments involving 15 participants, we observed that when the cooling rate was − 0.2 to − 0.24 ∘ C/s and the cooling time ratio was 30 to 50%, more than 86.67% of the participants perceived only persistent cold without any warmth.