The advent of 3D in our cinemas and on our TV screens may make images appear less flat and more “real,” but the immersion factor is ruined by the fact that none of our other sensations experience the effect. We can see the aliens, or the neon landscapes of Tron-world beckoning before us, but we can’t feel it, which kind of shatters the illusion. So when we can start feeling the sensations of a virtual environment, be it a film or game or whatever, then we’ll start truly being able to enjoy the thrills of a holodeck or similar virtual reality.
And to fool us into thinking virtual experiences are real it’ll take some very sophisticated trickery—heading down that path is this system from Japanese virtual reality production company Solidray. In what’s called a “crossmodal” experience (i.e. two or more senses are involved), they’ve teamed 3D glasses that create a 3D image no matter where the user stands in relation to the screen, with the TECHTILE toolkit, “a haptic recording and playback tool” that lets you feel the water. So users can experience the sensation of poured water without there actually being any water, or pouring.
Users hold out a cup to the line of sight of the water flowing off the screen and when they match it they can feel the cup being filled with water—the glasses give you the visual effect of it coming at you, while the cup vibrates to give you the tactile experience of water falling into it. You can just imagine this kind of thing being used on interactive billboards of the not-too-distant future, but a more complex form of it would be just as effective for immersive gaming and film.