05.01.2020, by Emily Smith
VR creators are always trying to make our VR gaming experience more realistic. Currently this realism is sought out through improving the audio and visual aspects of VR. However, it seems that this is on its way to change for consumer gaming with the development of Thermoreal, a product owned by TEGway Co.
Thermoreal, which started development in 2014, is a flexible thermoelectric device (or TED) for VR environments. It is a device that you can stick on or incorporate into game controllers, joysticks, headsets, haptic gloves, chairs, or even full VR suits. As VR’s key elements are interactivity, embodiment and immersion, this technology could be the next big step in VR, as it can increase the realism of VR experiences by optimizing the key elements.
Realism in gaming
Thermoreal has a temperature range of 4 to 40 degrees celsius, which means that it can create the very real sensations of heat, cold, and with the right balance of both, the feeling of a pinch. As this wearable technology can be implemented into a wide range of applications, it can be used in both VR and AR. In the demonstration of this technology, people saw how quickly the flexible TEDs can adapt to both heat and cold as shown within a video or in a game. For example, to show how the technology drops temperature, TEGway Co shows a video of a man in ice water, with the TED getting colder as the man goes deeper, and the temperature rising slightly when he bobs his head in and out of the water.
The world’s first ultrathin flexible TED is more wearable than its predecessor, a rigid ceramic TED, and allows users to not just feel hot, cold, and the sensation of pain, but heat and cold moving across the TED in correspondence to what is being shown. This means that the TED can differentiate the heat between a candle moving across your palm, to a car exploding, increasing the realism within a game by further increasing the feelings of immersion and embodiment. TEGway Co show how this technology can be incorporated into current gaming systems by taping it to game controllers and joysticks, so this could be an innovation that we see in consumer games very soon!
The impact of Thermoreal
Currently TEGway Co has shared that the technology has been incorporated into headsets and headphones. This means that, with the right software, people can experience temperature in games. The demonstrations of the technology also show that this is currently mainly being used for VR and AR gaming, but could perhaps be further expanded to more than just games.
The flexible TED appears to also be perfectly safe, besides a pinching sensation that can be stimulated from the device. However, some speculate that this could be taken too far in an attempt to make our gaming experience even more realistic, and that the risk of pain has been intentionally added to create this, unlike in certain recreational activities, such as paintball. Which could mean that this technology could have a different reaction among the public than more traditional pain risks, such as breaking your leg playing football. However, so far there does not seem to be a huge outcry at the risk of feeling a pinch from the technology.
TEGway appears to be optimistic about the development of the flexible TEDs as they have filed several patent applications with regards to thermorealism, which means that VR and AR won’t rely on just sound and sight for much longer to create a realistic experience.
What does this mean?
This technology is likely to also make an appearance in more than just VR and AR gaming, it could expand to training, education, 360-degree film and journalism, for example. As VR and AR take over training and simulation experiences it is important that they become more realistic to be more successful, which means that this wearable tech could make a bigger impact than we currently anticipate.
Thermoreal is a huge step in making VR and AR more realistic and for wearable technology in general. Despite VR generally being too expensive for the general public, constant development and innovation will eventually make this technology more affordable. With all of the potential applications and uses for such a technology, we are certainly excited to see this development reach the shelves and improve our current gaming experiences!