Can virtual reality be finally integrated in a real-time environment? Researchers at University of Bristol say it's possible.
With the help of a chrono-sensory mid-air display system dubbed as SensaBubble, computer-generated images can now be projected onto bubbles filled with opaque fog, making virtual images look like they are wafting in the air, although they only last until they burst.
A brainchild of Human-Computer Interaction Professor Sriram Subramanian of the University of Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, the new technology produces single bubbles of specific sizes, which can be controlled and be tracked. Here's the fun part. The fog in the bubbles is scented optionally and when they pop, the particular smell relevant to the notification is released, slowly dispersing a longer-lasting perceptible trace.
"We are interested in creating new and exciting experiences for people. Think about your laptop or phone - you can't put your finger through the screen," Subramanian said.
SensaBubble can open opportunities in the business, gaming, and education industries, while focusing on the human senses of sight and smell.
For example, solving Math problems can now be a fun and interactive learning experience. "There's an iPhone game which involves bursting bubbles to learn maths - we could project numbers onto different bubbles, so the children would have to burst the right bubble," said Subramanian.
He also noted a possible ambient notification system, wherein a bubble would float around carrying a projected number that shows how many unread emails are there in one's inbox. A person can even have the liberty of assigning a scent to a particular email to let him or her know which email came from whom.
"The human sense of smell is powerful, but there are few research systems that explore and examine ways to use it. We have taken the first steps to explore how smell can be used to enhance and last longer in a visual object such as a soap bubble," Subramanian added.
SensaBubble is set to be unveiled in Toronto at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2014, an annual convention of scientists developing innovative and groundbreaking interfaces between computers and humans.