AirRes Mask wants to make the metaverse a little too realistic


We experience virtual reality vicariously through glasses and controllers, but a new mask could give us a first-hand view of a potentially harrowing Metaverse experience.

Virtual and augmented reality should allow us to easily go places where we cannot physically go or experience things that would be impossible under the laws of physics. Being able to roam the surface of Mars without worrying about breathing is one of the many experiences the metaverse promises to deliver sooner or later. At the same time, some people criticize these experiences as clearly fake and unbelievable because you can only see the real thing, but you can’t smell it. For better or for worse, a team of researchers is at least trying to mimic the way you breathe in virtual worlds, but that might just make it too real to the point that our brains and bodies won’t be able to tell what is real. is not.

Designers: Markus Tatzgern, Michael Domhardt, Martin Wolf, Michael Cenger, Gerlinde Emsenhuber, Radomir Dinic, Nathalie Gerner, Arnulf Hartl

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VR hardware, of course, starts with the eyes and ears, as these are the easiest and most important senses to trick into creating a suspension of belief. As convincing as this illusion is, however, it falls apart when you try to move and interact with the virtual world, which is done in the real world via controllers while standing completely still. Much of the R&D in technologies that will propel the so-called Metaverse revolves around navigation and more credible interaction, such as the use of gloves and walking machines. Very few are concerned with the credibility of smell or at least the act of breathing.

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Researchers from the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences in Austria are studying the virtual experience of creating a mask design to restrict airflow to control breathing resistance and thus the wearer’s breathing ability. The prototype looks like a dystopian whitewashed gas mask and almost refers to the rather serious and almost critical application of the device. An end product would look more refined, assuming something like this was ever made commercially.

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The idea is almost simple when you first hear about it, and it’s about making the virtual experience more believable by tricking your body into thinking it’s dealing with real-world situations. Walking through a burning house may not really smell like it, but the mask can regulate and restrict airflow, so you experience the same breathing difficulties as in a real fire. This could activate the brain’s natural fight or flight response, bringing the experience closer to reality without endangering the wearer. Hopefully, the wearer is physically able to endure this type of stress.

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Conversely, the person’s breathing can also be used as an additional way to control their virtual avatar, making their digital counterpart look just as exhausted as they do in the real world. It can also open doors for activities and games that normally require you to blow air, such as blowing out candles or blowing up balloons. The mask can also be used as a control and monitoring device for training simulations for firefighters and emergency services.

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The same people who criticize virtual reality for being so blatantly fake may also criticize these kinds of inventions for going too far and making the experience too realistic. In a way, the realism might take away some of the appeal of the Metaverse, specifically its ability to experience different places, worlds, and things without having to worry about hyperventilating. Sure, there will be perfect experiences for such breath control devices as horror games or exercise activities, but most people will probably try to do without the extra equipment. Alternatively, such a mask may be more useful for medical applications, as it helps medical personnel diagnose a patient’s well-being through controlled and regulated breathing.

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