Whether you’re watching the latest MasterChef series or playing a wine-themed game, there are often times when you wish you could smell through your screen.
Now you can, thanks to a new device that sends aromas into your nose while you play video games in virtual reality.
Created by researchers in Sweden, the ‘Nosewise Handheld Olfactometer’ (NHO) can be mounted on the HTC Vive’s hand controller.
It contains liquid scents that are directed to the nostrils at various times during a game while wearing a virtual reality (VR) mask.
The system links ‘physical odors to a synthetic VR environment’ and brings the concept of ‘Smell-O-Vision’ into the 21st century.
Smell-O-Vision was a system created by Swiss professor Hans Laube in 1960 to release scents to an audience while watching a movie.
A scent machine, the so-called olfactometer, makes it possible to smell in VR environments. Pictured is the Swedish research team testing the olfactometer in the lab
‘Nosewise Handheld Olfactometer’ can be mounted on the HTC Vive hand controller. It contains liquid scents that are directed to the nostrils at various times during a game while wearing a virtual reality mask.
WHAT WAS SMELL-O-VISION?
Smell-O-Vision was a system created in 1960 by Hans Laube, and was used in movie theaters during the movie ‘Scent of Mystery’.
Mounted on cinema seats, the system diffused 30 scents at various points during the film, triggered by the film’s soundtrack.
The scents include pipe tobacco, gunpowder, gasoline, flowers, wood shavings and food, including peaches, wine and coffee.
NHO was created by psychologists at Stockholm University and detailed in a paper published in International Journal of Human – Computer Studies.
Researchers also created a virtual reality wine tasting game called Nosewise, which allows players to guess aromas in a virtual wine cellar.
In the game, users can grab a wine glass to soak up the contents in the virtual world, while in the real world they simply hold the specially modified HTC Vive.
“We used the opening in the HTC Vive hand controller as a channel to deliver scent to the hand and link physical scents to a synthetic VR environment,” the authors say.
‘[It] allows users to manipulate and smell virtual objects in a VR environment, just like you would bring a peach or glass of wine to your nose into the world.
“A user study in a virtual wine cellar game shows that the device is intuitive to use and stable enough for long-term scent training.”
According to the experts, a potentially important application of this technology could be to help people restore their sense of smell after virus infections that damage the olfactory system, such as Covid-19.
NHO, which contains elements that can be 3D printed, consists of four chambers of liquid odors that are absorbed into a spongy material.
A single fan below the chambers generates an airflow to carry these odors up and out of the unit and into the nose.
The chambers are each closed by valves at the top and bottom, allowing two or more scents to be mixed.
Smell-O-Vision was a system invented by Swiss professor Hans Laube to produce scents in sync with action in a movie. In the photo, American film producer Mike Todd Jr (left) sits with Laube, pointing to his ‘Smell-O-Vision’ machine, which was used in the 1960 film ‘Scent of Mystery’ produced by Todd
Researchers also created a virtual reality wine tasting game called Nosewise that allows players to guess aromas in a virtual wine cellar (pictured)
“Our device introduces proportional mixing through stepless valves, precisely stimulating any blend that can be made from a base set of four available scents,” the experts explain.
The team tried out the device with Nosewise, their wine tasting VR game, where players smell wine in a virtual wine cellar and get points if the estimate of the aromas in each wine is correct.
In the game, the participant moves in a virtual wine cellar, picks up virtual wine glasses with different types of wine and guesses the aromas.
The device, attached to the bottom of an HTC controller, consists of multiple chambers, each containing liquid scents that are absorbed into a spongy material
A single fan below the chambers generates an airflow to release these odors up and out of the device and toward the nose
The small scent machine is attached to the controller of the VR system and when the player lifts the glass, a scent is released.
The player can control the four channels so that they open to different degrees and offer different scent blends.
These fragrance blends can mimic the complexity of a real wine glass.
In addition, the wine game has different levels of difficulty with increasing complexity.
In the game, users can grab a wine glass to smell the contents in the virtual world, while in the real world they simply hold the specially modified HTC Vive (pictured)
“Just like a normal computer game gets harder as the player gets better, the scent game can also challenge players who already have a sensitive nose,” says Olofsson.
“This means that the scent machine can even be used to train wine tasters or perfumers.”
All code, blueprints and instructions for the machine are: openly available onlineas well as the code for the virtual wine tasting game.
Another iteration of sniffing in VR, conceived by porn website CamSoda, required users to strap both a headset and a device resembling a gas mask to their faces.
But it didn’t bring aromas like wine or peaches into the user’s nostrils; instead, users could choose from a range of sexual scents, including “private parts,” “body scent,” “panties,” and “aphrodisiacs.”
VIRTUAL REALITY VIDEOGAME RESIDENT EVIL 7 IS BROUGHT TO LIFE WITH FRAGRANCES DESIGNED FOR THE ACTION
Virtual reality video games can really be brought to life with scents designed to match the action, a 2022 study shows.
In experiments, volunteers played virtual reality (VR) game Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, both with and without scents that complemented parts of the game.
Scenes in the survival horror game contain intense smelling objects such as rotten food, smoke and a rotting head.
Researchers found that the addition of the scents significantly increased the sense of presence in the game environment.
The team says scents provide an opportunity to “create a more immersive experience to increase a person’s presence in a VR environment.”
“Besides gaming, the results have broader applications for virtual training environments and virtual reality exposure therapy,” they write.