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Lighthouse Spotlight: Temperature Experiences for VR​

Aalto University is designing and developing thermal interfaces for hot and cold sensations in virtual environments

Photo by Jonas Denil

Virtual reality (VR) technology has come a long way in recent years, with advancements in hardware and software that have made it possible to create highly immersive experiences. However, one area that is often overlooked in the development of VR systems is haptics. Haptics refers to the sense of touch, temperatures and the ability to feel physical sensations. In VR, haptics can be used to create a more immersive experience by allowing users to feel the sensation of touch when interacting with virtual objects.    

Aalto University’s lighthouse project focuses on the design and development of electronic textiles that can reproduce temperature experiences for VR. In other words, how can we simulate the sensation of warmth or cold with a lightweight, comfortable and wearable system. This can be used in a variety of different VR experiences, such as a virtual reality game where the player is exploring a snowy mountain or visits a traditional Finnish sauna. The thermal haptic feedback can be used to simulate the feeling of the cold mountain winds or hot steam after water is thrown onto the stove. Similarly, in a virtual reality cooking simulation, the thermal haptic feedback can be used to simulate the feeling of hot cooking surface or holding a hot pot.

In addition, some VR experiences use temperature as a way to create atmosphere and immersing the user in the experience. For instance, in a horror game, a cold temperature can be used to create a creepy and eerie atmosphere.

Overall, temperature in VR can be used in a variety of different ways to enhance the immersive experience and create a sense of realism. It can be used to simulate the feeling of different temperatures and environments, to improve comfort during extended VR sessions, and to create atmosphere in VR experiences.

The research team from the Wearable Systems Lab lead by Prof. Yu Xiao from Aalto University is investigating the design and development of thermal experiences for virtual reality applications. From an experience design perspective, they are conducting research on how individuals perceive, experience, and express real-world thermal sensations, with the goal of simulating and designing heat or cold experiences within virtual environments.

We hope this and the other EMIL Lighthouse Projects will give you an idea of the kinds of pursuits EMIL wants to foster and inspire you to apply for funding!

Author: Tim Moesgen

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