British Council’s May edition of cubed webzine – Virtual Cocoon

The Matrix

From Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall to Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, Hollywood is fascinated by virtual reality. In real life, virtual reality devices don’t come close to mirroring the movies. But teams from York and Warwick University, along with experts from the Universities of Bangor, Bedford and Brighton are looking to change this.

‘Virtual Reality systems have concentrated on one or two of the senses,’ says Professor David Howard, Head of the Media Engineering Research Group in the Department of Electronics at York University. They are working on the idea of a Virtual Cocoon. It’s a headset which could stimulate all five senses.

Smell and taste

‘Smell and taste are probably the hardest things to do,’ explains Howard. ‘My colleague at the University of Warwick, Alan Chalmers, has some shrewd ideas of how to deal with smell.’ They believe that if they give ‘the smell in very small doses, one, two, or three little breaths in, and present it very locally to the nose, which the cocoon helmet mock-up shows, with the tube under the nose, then you have pretty good control over the smell.’

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