Google Street View already offers virtual tours of Rome, Paris and London. But imagine if virtual travelers could feel the sun beating down on their faces as they toured the Colosseum? Or could feel the burn in their quads as they walked up the Eiffel Tower? Or could smell the old tapestries hanging in Westminster Abbey?
If Ikei Laboratory has anything to say about it, that soon may be no stretch of the imagination. A part of the Tokyo Metropolitan University Graduate School of System Design, the lab is developing so-called "virtual body technology."
Revealed at the Digital Contents Expo 2012 in Tokyo, the system will engage all five senses and make users feel as if they're inhabiting another person's body, the designers say.
Ikei Laboratory's system includes a vibrating chair that leans back and forth, a 3-D monitor, headphones, a fan for odors and breezes and foot pedals that replicate the sensation of walking and running. How taste enters the picture remains unclear. Perhaps it's on the tip of their tongue?
"The chair will move to provide directional and vestibular sensations," Professor Yasushi Ikei said in a promo video. "The legs will move to create a sense of actually walking or running and a sense of moving in parallel or up and down, or to create a sensation as if the feet are touching the ground. Extremely large vibrations are felt when you are running, so it is
possible to create vibrations from the shins to the knees. When you walk
in the city there are various scents and breezes, and these are also recreated."
It will be the next best thing to going there.
Credit: YouTube screengrab