Virtual Reality

, Volume 10, Issue 3–4, pp 207–225 | Cite as

Multi-modal virtual environments for education with haptic and olfactory feedback

  • E. Richard
  • A. Tijou
  • P. Richard
  • J.-L. Ferrier
Original Article


It has been suggested that immersive virtual reality (VR) technology allows knowledge-building experiences and in this way provides an alternative educational process. Important key features of constructivist educational computer-based environments for science teaching and learning, include interaction, size, transduction and reification. Indeed, multi-sensory VR technology suits very well the needs of sciences that require a higher level of visualization and interaction. Haptics that refers to physical interactions with virtual environments (VEs) may be coupled with other sensory modalities such as vision and audition but are hardly ever associated with other feedback channels, such as olfactory feedback. A survey of theory and existing VEs including haptic or olfactory feedback, especially in the field of education is provided. Our multi-modal human-scale VE VIREPSE (virtual reality platform for simulation and experimentation) that provides haptic interaction using a string-based interface called SPIDAR (space interface device for artificial reality), olfactory and auditory feedbacks is described. An application that allows students experiencing the abstract concept of the Bohr atomic model and the quantization of the energy levels has been developed. Different configurations that support interaction, size and reification through the use of immersive and multi-modal (visual, haptic, auditory and olfactory) feedback are proposed for further evaluation. Haptic interaction is achieved using different techniques ranging from desktop pseudo-haptic feedback to human-scale haptic interaction. Olfactory information is provided using different fan-based olfactory displays (ODs). Significance of developing such multi-modal VEs for education is discussed.


Virtual Environment Haptic interaction Olfaction Multi-modal feedback Human scale Education 



We wish to acknowledge the assistance of the student Pierre Guérin, who has developed the “Haptic Atomic” user interface.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Richard
    • 1
  • A. Tijou
    • 1
  • P. Richard
    • 1
  • J.-L. Ferrier
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire d’Ingénierie des Systèmes AutomatisésUniversité d’Angers – EA 4014AngersFrance

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