"Virtual Cocoon" Mimics All Five Senses

A new virtual-reality invention allows users to experience taste, sound and touch as well as sight and sound

By Caitlin Millat
|  Thursday, Mar 5, 2009  |  Updated 11:18 AM EDT
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"Virtual Cocoon" Mimics All Five Senses

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The new "Virtual Cocoon" mimics all five senses and should be available for release within the next five years.

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Virtual reality just became a lot more real.

A new virtual-reality helmet that allows users to experience taste, smell and touch in addition to sight and sound has been developed by British scientists and could soon be sold internationally, the Daily Mail reports.

The "Virtual Cocoon" recreates experiences from destinations across the globe, giving wearers the opportunity to feel the Caribbean sun on their faces or smell the flowers in an African garden.

A high-definition television screen attached to the helmet is connected to speakers and a wireless computer that is constantly being updated with information, visuals and moving images from around the world.

A tube attached to a box of chemicals wafts scent into the wearer's nose, while another tube can inject flavor into the mouth. The helmet also comes with a fan and heater that mimic the location's natural conditions.

"The idea is not to replace reality but to complement it," said Professor Alan Chalmers of Warwick University, who helped develop the product.

The experience is so realistic that scientists have renamed the genre 'Real Virtuality.'

Experts said the helmet could be used for more than recreation - they could produce realistic war-like situations to train the military, or simulate surgery to help educate doctors.

"We're not aware of any other research group anywhere in the world doing what we plan to do," Chalmers said.

An early price estimate for the helmet, which should be released within five years, is just over $2,000.

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