Ever thought that wearing a VR mask doesn’t look unfashionable enough? Researchers from Salzburg University have decided that what could really complete the look is taking a leaf from Batman villain Bane’s style with breathing apparatus to cover the nose and mouth.

This will, on the bright side, obscure your face, making you slightly harder to recognise, but that’s not the main intention.

AirRes is a proof-of-concept device that can “precisely and robustly measure a user’s breathing” in VR, and the demo shows all kinds of wholesome activities like blowing out candles, inflating balloons and steadying your hand with a toy gun by holding your breath. Very neat, albeit in the kind of gimmicky way that early Nintendo DS games were.

But then it takes something of a darker turn with the second capability of the AirRes Mask. A resistance valve inside allows developers to “communicate the conditions of a user’s visual avatar or the effect of environmental conditions such as smoke”. 

In other words, shortness of breath can be simulated to match what the wearer is seeing inside the headset. And the demo shows a fire obstacle course where breathing is restricted until the fire is put out

This could, the researchers say, be used for training simulations, or for “psychotherapy by providing additional physical stimuli.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time researchers have decided that VR could do with adding a bit of discomfort to trick the brain into thinking it’s more real. Last year, researchers from the University of Chicago’s Human Computer Integration Lab created a wearable that could simulate cold, heat, an electric shock or even a little bit of pain to match the action onscreen. 

If you have to put on all these wearables on top of your headset just to simulate war, there does come a time when it’s probably more practical just to go and sign up for some paintball. But you can’t fault the ambition of those who want to make VR even more immersive than it already is.