Virtual reality takes your eyes and ears into another world. But it isn’t quite truly immersive, yet. So, Tegway wants to take you one step closer into the immersion by making you feel new sensations like heat, cold, and pain.
The company demonstrated its ThermoReal technology at the HTC Vive X accelerator event last week in San Francisco. ThermoReal developed a thermoelectric device that can generate heat and cold upon demand and translate that feeling into your hands as you hold touch controls in VR. It is a new kind of human-machine interface.
Tegway created a semiconductor device that heats up on one side when you input electricity into it. The other side becomes cold when you put electricity into it. This kind of technology is already used in wine refrigerators, which generate cold without vibrations because there are no moving parts (that’s what you need to preserve the wine better).
The device can become hotter based on the level of the electrical current. I put on a VR headset and held the ThermoReal controller in my hand. As I touched something flaming, I felt actual heat. And when I touched something cold, I felt the coldness for real. And to make me feel pain, the ThermoReal device generated both heat and cold at the same time. It was an electrifying experience.
It may be a while before this can be built into a VR device. But it is an interesting milestone on the road to full immersion. Applications that use the tech could draw you into an experience through more than sound and visuals.
Tegway has filed numerous patent applications in the areas of fabricating flexible thermoelectric device technologies, hardware design and applications, and software algorithms for thermal realism.