Virtual Reality

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 226–234

Physically touching and tasting virtual objects enhances the realism of virtual experiences

  • H. G. Hoffman
  • A. Hollander
  • K. Schroder
  • S. Rousseau
  • T. FurnessIII


Experiment 1 explored the impact of physically touching a virtual object on how realistic the virtual environment (VE) seemed to the user. Subjects in a ‘no touch’ group picked up a 3D virtual image of a kitchen plate in a VE, using a traditional 3D wand. ‘See and touch’ subjects physically picked up a virtual plate possessing solidity and weight, using a technique called ‘tactile augmentation’. Afterwards, subjects made predictions about the properties of other virtual objects they saw but did not interact with in the VE. ‘See and touch’ subjects predicted these objects would be more solid, heavier, and more likely to obey gravity than the ‘no touch’ group. In Experiment 2 (a pilot study), subjects ‘physically bit’ a chocolate bar in one condition, and ‘imagined biting’ a chocolate bar in another condition. Subjects rated the event more fun and realistic when allowed to physically bite the chocolate bar. Results of the two experiments converge with a growing literature showing the value of adding physical qualities to virtual objects. This study is the first to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of tactile augmentation as a simple, safe, inexpensive technique with large freedom of motion for adding physical texture, force feedback cues, smell and taste to virtual objects. Examples of practical applications are discussed.


Virtual reality Tactile feedback Smell Taste Mixed reality 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. G. Hoffman
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. Hollander
    • 1
  • K. Schroder
    • 1
  • S. Rousseau
    • 1
  • T. FurnessIII
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Interface Technology LaboratoryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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