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Enhancing Immersion With Heat and Cold in VR and AR

Flexible thermo-reactive materials allows VR and AR users to feel heat and cold in a VR environment.

As immersion is such an important part of the virtual reality (VR) experience, several companies are seeking ways to enhance immersion, using wind machines, scents or haptic feedback. One company named TEGway is taking another route and is looking as using temperature changes to enhance realism in VR and augmented reality (AR) experiences.

The TEGway technology is referred to as ThermoReal, and uses a thin, flexible sheet that can be wrapped around a device such as a game controller or joystick and can rapidly heat up and cool down, producing temperatures in the range of 4 to 40 degree Celcius (39.2 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and can simultaneously produce heat and cold in different areas on the surface. Interestingly, the technology can also simulate the sensation of a sharp pinch on the skin, similar to an insect bite. The technology was originally developed to harvest heat through the thermo-reactive surface in order to turn heat into energy.

The company have demonstrated the technology in a few ways. The first involves allowing users to hold on to a stick wrapped in the ThermoReal sheet. The user puts on a HTC Vive headset and watches a man slowly descend into icy cold water – the deeper the man goes, the colder the stick gets. To demonstrate heat, a simulation of a candle moving towards a hand is used, spots of intense heat generated as the candle moves towards the fingertips of the hand. A reported from Engadget referred to the sensation as “Scarily real.”.

TEGWay now need to acquire manufacturing partners and convince VR content creators to integrate ThermoReal technology compatibility into their upcoming or existing experiences. TEGway are already licensing software towards this end, but it remains to be seen if the technology will see wide adoption.

VRFocus will bring you further information on TEGway and ThermoReal as it becomes available.

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