New thermo-concepts form temperature-reactive objects (video)

New concepts from the Tokyo Metropolitan University look to integrate temperature into existing technologies with Peltier elements.

With rumours that the next-generation Microsoft Kinect may soon be able to track our emotions through facial recognition, is it not surprising that developers are looking for new ways to further manipulate our senses?

While we already have augmented reality apps to alter our vision digitally, we are getting closer to feeling the heat of a digital fire as well.

Students at Tokyo Metropolitan University are working on integrating temperature into our tech experiences with three new concepts: the Thermo Chair, Thermo Game and Thermo Drawing.

These concepts, revealed at the Digital Contents Expo 2011, uses a Peltier element to manipulate hot and cold in conjunction with imaging technology to create unique effects.

In Thermo Drawing, a tablet controls the Peltier element, with the display then producing temperatures to match the colours used. For example, red parts of the picture would be hot and blue parts cold. It's a neat feature, but could it work with a standard tablet? It would certainly make fake fire applications more believable.

The Thermo Game integrates the element into a controller so that temperature becomes a feature of game-play. In the example shown, they showed a simple game where in order to reach objectives, the player has to find 'warm spots' on the screen, that explode and lift the character up. The controller reacts to the in-game environment and heats up indicating the correct spot.

Applications of this technology are seemingly limitless, though could be used to enhance the atmosphere for gamers. When characters go into a lava-pit, the controller would feel hot and icy tundras would be freezing cold. While this level of interaction could be effective for enhancing the gaming experience, it would be somewhat discouraging to keep having to play whilst wearing wooly gloves.

The Thermo Chair, though pitched as a new communication tool, probably should be marketed simply as a variably heated chair. I can only think of nefarious uses for such a device, such as remotely cooling a chair so that you can get people out of your favourite seat, but ultimately a chair is just a chair.

What do you think? Can think of wonderful uses for this tech? Could this concept be more than just a gimmick, or is it doomed to become as pointless as 3D?