We shouldn't be surprised that the Oculus Quest 2 has some weird accessories. Developers have often sought ways to enhance VR's immersive experience, and thanks to a group of Austrian researchers, there's now one that'll literally take your breath away.
A research team at the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences recently demonstrated the unique accessory for the Oculus Quest 2 (recently renamed the Meta Quest 2, because of course), a thingy called the AirRes Mask.
Spotted by VRScout (opens in new tab), this unusual-looking peripheral aims to utilize a person's breathing as an input method, providing "increased levels of interactivity and multi-sensory stimulation."
Releasing a video demonstration, which you can view below, the research team showcased some novel examples. Between blowing into a harmonica and steadying your breathing while aiming a gun, this device also offers "breathing resistance to communicate contextual information such as adverse environmental conditions," directly affecting your avatar too.
AirRes Mask comes equipped with a half-face respirator, sensor, and resistance disk, recreating the feeling of being suffocated. Now, before you get any weird ideas, the research team's goal is to simulate “real-time breathing resistance,” using a virtual firefighting demonstration to explain how this technology replicates tricky environmental conditions.
In this demo, smoke soon fills up your virtual space and AirRes Mask restricts your breathing to simulate this sensation, decreasing your avatar's stamina too. Once the fire gets extinguished, AirRes Mask restores your airflow. It's a process that increases a user's stress levels to better simulate real-life conditions, ideal for training new recruits. However, as this is experimental tech, don't expect to buy it anytime soon.
Not the strangest VR add-on we've ever seen
We've seen no end of strange accessories for VR previously, each with varying degrees of practicality. Keeping this PG-13, options like lightweight headset straps (opens in new tab), lens protectors (opens in new tab), controller grips (opens in new tab), or bumpers (opens in new tab) for protecting your controllers are pretty standard, though once we start getting into haptic vests (opens in new tab) and VR candles (opens in new tab), that's a different story.
If you're looking to go that extra mile on immersion, this often becomes impractical. Within virtual reality, some companies have previously offered exoskeletons (opens in new tab), haptic gloves (opens in new tab), and virtual reality chairs (opens in new tab). You'll find a lot of creative accessories to pick from, but unfortunately, these usually come with two major drawbacks.
You probably won't be surprised to learn that these VR accessories can be extremely pricey, usually surpassing the cost of even the more expensive headsets. They often take up significant space too, which many of us don't really have. Still, if you really want to feel like part of a virtual world, I can see the appeal of taking a quick stroll on a VR treadmill (opens in new tab) but I'll pass on the whole choking thing.