MULTI-SENSORY VIRTUAL REALITY EXPERIENCE


I'm from Seattle where the opportunities for quick, deep-nature experiences are abundant. However, upon my arrival in New York City 8 months ago, it has become apparent that those same opportunities may not be readily available.

A photograph of my 8-acre wilderness spread on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. 

A photograph of my 8-acre wilderness spread on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. 


OPPORTUNITIES FOR NATURE THERAPY


I started sketching out a bunch of different ideas that centered around being able to make an escape to nature. But what if I couldn't leave the city? Or maybe I'm stuck in the office all day. This started leading me toward the power of VR.


RECREATING "HOME"


After exploring several options, I decided that I wanted to experiment with Google Cardboard and Unity 3D. I love the accessibility of these platforms, and I knew that I could use many types of devices and plug-ins to develop my "nature" experience. So, I purchased a Google Cardboard, and I taught myself Unity.

After many iterations, I was able to build a terrain that resembled my Cascadian homeland.

After many iterations, I was able to build a terrain that resembled my Cascadian homeland.


BUILDING A PLATFORM


Did I love being able to create and experience a visual representation of the nature that I craved so much? Yes. Was that enough to make me feel like I was sitting at home, beside a lake on a summer's day? No. I wanted to be able to engage as many of the senses as possible to create a truly  immersive experience.


AUGMENTING VIRTUAL REALITY


After reading through the Google VR design guidelines, I found that a seated experience is highly recommended for the current VR experience. So, I built a chair that could act as a platform to interact with our sense of touch, sound, and smell. I found a company that distills scents, like "dirt" and "grass," and along with wired PC fans, and a forest soundtrack, I was able to build my own little version of the Star Trek "Holodeck."


THE FINAL RESULT


These new analogue inputs that engage additional senses have truly enhanced a purely-visual virtual reality experience. I can now say it feels like I am sitting by the lake, even though I haven't even stepped outside. Now, the only thing that's missing is a six-pack of beer. Cheers.