As the Game Developers Conference (GDC) approaches, the buzz has all been about the many new head mounted displays (HMDs) that are expected to be announced during the event. Valve has released info about what they are called SteamVR; NVIDIA is reported to have something up their sleeves; and everyone wants to know what Oculus is up to. The hype is so high for virtual reality that several small companies are beginning to approach VR for the 1st time.
One of those startups coming to GDC with something new is called FeelReal who as their website states was founded in Brooklyn, NY. We discovered them on the GDC Exhibitors List online after clicking every other company’s name while looking for something interesting. Out of the blue, FeelReal popped up posting that they will be at booth PL510. They are describing themselves as “an immersive technology company that developed the world’s first fully operating prototype of a revolutionary virtual reality mask for 3D video games and movies that brings virtual reality technology to a new level.” Their website go on to say that the FealReal mask is:
designed for you to fully immerse and experience the smells and senses present in virtual reality games and movies. Playing in our mask you can feel the wind, heat, water mist, vibration and smells that surrounds you in virtual world.
The FEELREAL virtual reality mask makes it easy to connect and interact with other players around the world through the built-in bluetooth microphone. The mask doesn’t touch the skin surface, simply mounted and perfectly matches the design of your VR headset. Play wearing the FEELREAL mask to explore virtual reality with bright senses you’ve never experienced before.
The add-on is reportedly suited for a variety of different headsets including the Oculus Rift DK2, Samsung Gear VR, Sony Morpheus, and the Zeiss VR One. However, there is no mention of how it actually attaches to all of them yet.
The website has the technical characteristics as well. So far, the mask is mentioned to have “two powerful micro coolers generating cool wind flows” for windlow capabilities. The is an “ultrasonic ionizing system” that produces water mist, and an odor generator that has a “removable cartridge with 7 unique smells.” A vibro engine will be able to adjust the vibration levels when needed. There is a built-in bluetooth microphone with an operating radius up to 10m in order to establish a connection, and the battery life is expected to last “4 hours of continuous work with a built-in rechargeable battery.”
This mask created by FeelReal is reminiscent of a condensed version of Morton Heilig’s Sensorama machine that was built in an effort to capture all the senses in an effective manner, thus immersing the user even further into the experience. Heilig’s design included smell and wind at the time, and it was patented in 1962 well before the recent VR hype cycle. Heilig’s pioneering work essentially opened up the possibilities in regards to immersive cinematography which now allows for other people to manifest similar projects relating to his original research. The ideas have been around for a while and finally someone is bring it to a commercial level.
Now, over 53 years later, the FeelReal mask has emerged that accompanies the nascent versions of the virtual reality devices coming to market. The FeelReal mask supposedly has packed the senses of smell and touch to go along with the optics of the headsets like the Oculus Rift and the sound that is being added to the experiences as well. The only human sense we are missing here is the sense of taste (if FeelReal delivers exactly what they are marketing). They do have a promo video on Youtube though, but it doesn’t show the device; which means the mask will need to be looked in person while at the GDC event.
Despite no known articles or reviews at this time, FeelReal’s VR mask is already available online for pre-order. The asking price is a hefty $249.99. It will come with several smells cartridges for free. It also looks like FeelReal is planning a Kickstarter as well.
The FeelReal mask might look cool, but it will most likely fly relatively under the radar during GDC this year as larger corporations like Valve, Oculus, and Sony will obviously steal the VR spotlight. However, startups like FeelReal must be watched closely because they are experimenting with the extreme potentials of what VR can do. Add-ons similar to this mask will begin popping up everywhere so be on the lookout for what lies along the edge of the virtual reality sphere – you never know what you might find there!
NOTE: UploadVR will be on the ground at GDC scouting out all aspects of virtual reality. This will include a hands-on review of the FeelReal mask as well as first person perspectives of haptic technologies, motion capture techniques, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Keep checking back with us as we report what we find at GDC.