Multi-Sensory Virtual Reality Experience




Introduction: Multi-Sensory Virtual Reality Experience

Using Morton Heilig’s 1957 invention, “Sensorama,” as a source for inspiration, I have developed a DIY virtual reality platform.

With the opportunity for 360 degrees of exploration, it may seem strange to design around a fixed position, but Google’s design guidelines for Cardboard recommend a seated experience. For this reason, there have been several big VR chair startups popping up recently, such as ROTO and VRGO, that are trying to tackle the problem of moving through space while sitting down.

However, this project steps away from that trend and delivers a product that focuses on impacting our senses with built-in components that recreate the scents, sounds, and movements of real life environments.

A truly multi-sensory, immersive, virtual reality experience.

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Step 1: Preproduction

This project makes some assumptions and expects some work upfront. You will need to build the chair from this Instructable, and build a Unity 3D landscape for Google Cardboard. If you are not familiar with how to do this, here is a list of resources:

Building Terrains in Unity

Unity + Cardboard

Building the Chair

Step 2: Building the Sensory Platform

You will need some of the scrap from the chair build and a few 5' sections of .5x1 lumber, although much of this can be done by feel. There is no need to follow any prescribed rules. The basic idea is that you will be building an extension off of the back of the chair that will seat a "collar" that can can house the scent and air modules, and located in an area that is close to your face. Check the pictures for how I put it together. It is very similar to the build of the chair: slatted lumber, held together by threaded rod.

Step 3: Wire It Up to Make a Breeze

You will need to get a few things for this step:

HitLights Rechargeable 3800mAh Lithium Ion Battery Pack with DC Connector, 12 volt

Case Fan, 40x40x10mm, Ball Bearing, 3-pin (x2)

20 gauge wire


DC barrel connection

Follow the pictures for a basic idea of how to get them connected. Again, a little experience is helpful for this step. Do not worry about the housing that you see in the photo, I will cover that in a following step.

Also, ELECTRICITY IS DANGEROUS. DO NOT ELECTROCUTE YOURSELF. If you are unsure, consult your local know-it-all.

Step 4: Cut the Housing for the Electronics

This step is really dependent on how you decided to build your chair. You will need access to a laser cutter, or cut the pieces by hand/saw. The idea is to cover the electronics. However you want to do that is up to you, this is all cosmetic, so it is not necessary. If you think about it, you will have a VR unit over your eyes anyway. The point is to feel the breeze.

I have included the .ai files, if you want to use that for lasercutting or fabrication.

Step 5: Adding Scent

This is not a technical step, and is very analogue in nature. However, I think it is one of the most important additions to making a truly immersive, multi-sensory experience. I found a company, Demeter, that distills scents such as dirt, pine, grass, water, etc... I drilled holes in the end of each of the collar arms, just above the fans and added glass vials filled with the scent of choice. I used "bonfire" and "earthworm" to remind me of sitting by the lake. Here are the supplies:

Package of 24 Small Mini Glass Jars with Cork Stoppers - Size: 1-1/2" Tall X 3/4 Inches Diameter

Demeter scents

Step 6: Sound

Sound should be implemented in a way that is cohesive with your experience. Noise cancelling headphones are my referred medium, but if you wanted to add speakers, that is up to you.

In terms of sound design, I have created a day at the lake, so the sound that I have added to the scene is an ambient forest and wind soundtrack, with the occasional bird chirp. What type of sound you choose to add to your experience is up to you.

Delivery is also a personal choice. I have added a simple soundtrack piped in through noise-cancelling headphones. However, the medium for delivery is up to you. Speakers would be fine, but I live in New York. It's noisy here. You can create the soundtrack as part of the Unity app or play it on the side. That is a aesthetic choice based on the experience you are trying to deliver.

Step 7: DIY

That is the basics of the immersive experience I have developed. Do it yourself. Experiment. Enjoy. Have fun :)

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    2 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I really loved working on this project, and I am excited about the future of VR.