Virtual reality developers strive to create immersive experiences that create the perception of being physically present in a world that’s as real as the one we inhabit physically.
This sense of immersion is, unfortunately, very fragile, and it can be shattered just by trying something as simple as blowing a candle on a birthday cake since the controllers VR headsets come with are very limited in terms of the way in which they let players interact with virtual worlds.
To enhance the immersion of virtual reality experiences, a research team working out of the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Austria has created the AirRes mask, a precise and robust virtual reality breathing interface utilizing breathing resistance as output modality.
“We present the AirRes mask that enables users to utilize their breathing for precise natural interactions with the virtual environment without suffering from limitations of the sensing equipment such as motion artifacts,” explains the team behind the unique device in their research paper. “Furthermore, the AirRes mask provides breathing resistance as novel output modality that can be adjusted in real-time by the application.”
To demonstrate how the AirRes mask can enhance virtual reality experiences, the researches have put together several practical demonstrations that show how the device can be used for entertainment and training purposes alike:
- Birthday cake: users blow out candles on a birthday cake.
- Blowtube: users exhale to shoot a projectile through a blow tube.
- Toy gun: users hold their breath to stabile the aim of a toy gun.
- Toy ships: users blow toy ships over a surface, with heavier ships requiring more breathing force.
- Ballons: users blow up balloons.
- Harmonica: users inhale and exhale to pay a wind instrument.
- Mirror: users exhale to cover a mirror with fog.
- Firefighter obstacle course: users navigate a firefighter obstacle course whose sections are filled up with smoke that makes it more difficult to breathe.
The AirRes mask—at least in its current form—is merely a research prototype that’s not intended for commercial use. Of course, it’s possible that the project will inspire someone to create a similar product that we will all be able to purchase and enjoy.