Engineers are developing a virtual reality system that will help astronauts endure long space flights. It will contain a system for generating odors, because they affect the emotional state of a person.
Why do astronauts need virtual reality
Renee Abbott and Ana Diaz Artiles from the University of Texas are developing a virtual reality system designed specifically for astronauts. It should help to improve their condition during long flights, when they will be deprived of the usual opportunities and impressions.
The flight to the Moon with the help of modern technologies lasts three days, to Mars — six months. Research on the surface of these bodies will continue for a long time. All this time, the astronauts will be in a cramped dark room, or even in a spacesuit. At this point, they will experience stress from sensory deprivation — the complete inability to get the impressions that are part of our daily experience on Earth.
Moreover, it will be impossible to get support from Earth, because even some bright and beautiful picture will travel to the red planet for as long as 20 minutes, and cargo in general will have to wait for months. Therefore, astronauts will have to take all pleasant impressions with them as a virtual reality.
Virtual reality systems are already quite well known on Earth. They are usually used to reproduce extreme environments, such as combat situations in games and training. But the University of Texas team solves the exact opposite task: to simulate habitual circumstances in unusual ones.
Researchers believe that a virtual walk through the forest or along the river can effectively improve the well-being of an astronaut who has been in a confined space for many months. And if the developers of virtual reality have been familiar with the ideal reproduction of images and sound for a long time, then the rest of the human sensations have so far mostly remained dissatisfied.
In particular, researchers pay special attention to modeling odors. Their receptors in the human nose transmit information directly to the limbic system, which is not only directly connected to our emotional circuit, but also connected to hormonal regulation.
That’s why odors affect us so continuously. We practically do not control their perception with our consciousness. But they are able to evoke images associated with them in consciousness. Therefore, their virtual generation with the help of a special device can positively affect the consciousness of astronauts.
The developers plan to implement software interaction with the odor generation system through hitboxes. This is the name of the invisible elements of virtual reality, which in games are responsible for colliding with objects. Engineers suggest setting them up in such a way that, for example, entering a virtual pine forest, an astronaut would immediately feel a suitable smell.
According to phys.org
Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time