Nicholas Soucy

*this video was produced before COVID-19 restrictions went into effect

THED: Thermal Hand Experience Device

[Nicholas Soucy] I created THED, which stands for Thermal Hand Experience Device. It’s a device that allows us to feel thermal sensations – both hot and cold – in virtual reality on the hands.

So, good virtual reality has a large level of immersion – an immersion is measured by essentially how much can we fool the person that this fake reality is their real reality.

Virtual reality solutions currently have visual and audio stimulations down very nicely with the actual full headset in this surround sound speakers. However, smaller sensations are missed – like being able to touch the table and feel that slight coolness on your hands or something. These are these little tiny things that we experience in the real world that we don’t have in these virtual worlds.

This is the physical prototype of THED: here’s the components that talk to the computer; here’s the components that you actually feel the thermal sensations on. These little white tiles is what heats and cools. So, the user would put this part of their hand right on the tiles – this is where all the blood flows to into the hand – and that’s how we feel thermal sensations. So, we’re trying to get that and also allow people to still use a controller while they’re in virtual reality still.

Applications for THED will include video gaming for sure – being able to cast fireballs or feel the coldness on an iron sword. And also, applications to teach and train others in professional environments like policemen or firemen or doctors. First, simulations for, you know, firemen or for children who are learning about fire safety. We can have them strapped in the THED and have them going through a building and checking the doors and making sure, “oh, is this door hot?” you know, “should I go in there or not?” – and then be able to navigate through a burning building. So they’re more prepared for the future.

I’m a little bit of a gamer myself. So, I started with like playing Skyrim or something in VR. And feeling, casting a fireball or casting a frost spell, and I wanted to have that like feeling – like that powerful feeling of feeling the heat from my spell or something. And I came and led to THED.