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New VR Tech Will Take Horror To A Whole New Level

As the video game industry continues to evolve, players are often left wondering how games could possibly become more immersive than they already are. Developers are already able to represent their work with a near-life-like attention to detail and players can actively exist in some game worlds with impressive VR technologies. But now, surely worrying insurance companies, options are being explored that will let players feel sensations on their face. A new VR technology is being tested that allows for the recreation of certain stimuli to parts of a player's face and lips. This can take the form of something as benign as really feeling that sip of cool water in-game to something more visceral — like feeling spiders trying to pry their way into your mouth.

No, really. The Future Interfaces Group of Carnegie Mellon University has been experimenting with ways to make VR tech more immersive, and the team thinks it has found the answer. Seeing mouth haptics as an unexplored avenue in VR immersion, and considering players' mouths fall second in sensitivity only to their fingers, the team sought to find a way to incorporate face and mouth sensations into contemporary VR experiences. While the Future Interface Group's results can't be argued with, the team's work will surely test how much immersion players actually want. The application for this kind of technology in VR games is practically limitless, with lip, teeth and even tongue haptics, but the Future Interfaces Group may have just found a way to take VR horror to a whole new level.

Future Interfaces Group's VR demo shows what could be

In a short video, the Future Interfaces Group shows off game demos created to test the technology, ranging from the exploration of a spider-filled haunted forest to calmer settings like a school or motorcycle ride. The haunted forest demo is of particular note, as the team used haptics to create specific effects like spiderwebs dragging across a player's mouth or the poking and prodding of their lips when spiders jumped toward the player's face. There was even a nice little surprise for players after they defeated a spider: a gust of haptic feedback to the mouth simulating the gooey spray of spider innards.

While the implications for this new VR technology may feel right at home in a title like "Resident Evil" or any number of other games you should never play by yourself, Future Interfaces Group also showcased how face and mouth haptics could be used in a more relaxed and neutral setting. In a handful of other demos, players found themselves drinking from water fountains, feeling rain or wind on their face, and even brushing their teeth. 

Future Interfaces Group found that mouth feedback provided was an increase in immersion, realism, tactility and reaction among other categories. The technology is still in its early stages, but successes like this are sure to attract the attention and investment from larger players in the VR field. From there, it won't be long before everyone can feel spiders crawling on their face in VR.