Your VR Doesn’t Stink (Yet)

What does it smell like when the wheels heat up on that Formula 1 car you drive at night and on the weekends? You have no idea because the Virtual Reality experience that lets you do so doesn’t come with a nasal component. Yet.

Shown here is an olfactory device that works with Oculus Rift and other head-mounted displays. The proof of concept is hte work of [Kazuki Hashimoto], [Yosuke Maruno], and [Takamichi Nakamoto] and was shown of at last year’s IEEE VR conference. It lets the wearer smell the oranges when approaching a tree in a virtual environment. In other words, it makes your immersive experience smelly.

As it stands this a pretty cool little device which atomizes odor droplets while a tiny fan wafts them to the wearer’s nose. There is a paper which presumably has more detail but it’s behind a pay wall so for now check out the brief demo video below. Traditionally an issue with scent systems is the substance stuck in the lines, which this prototype overcomes with direct application from the reservoir. Yet to be solved is the availability for numerous different scents.

This build came to our attention via an UploadVR article that does a good job of covering some of the scent-based experiments over the years. They see some of the same hurdles we do: odors linger and there is a limited palette that can be produced. We assume the massive revenue of the gaming industry is going to drive research in this field, but we won’t be lining up to smell gunpowder and dead bodies (or rotting zombies) anytime soon.

The more noble effort is in VR applications like taking the elderly and immobile back for another tour of places they’ll never again be able to visit in their lives. Adding the sense of smell, which has the power to unlock so many memories, makes that use case so much more powerful. We think that’s something everyone can be hopeful about!

[Thanks Steve]

24 thoughts on “Your VR Doesn’t Stink (Yet)

  1. For folks who don’t yet have access to this fantastic device, you can accomplish a similar feat by attaching a hose with one end on the VR headset and the other end to your Limited spectrum but you can definitely try extending palette with different cuisines.

    1. Did you click through to the UploadVR article? They link to a video where South Park makes a version of that at a con. This is a real life installation, not a cartoon episode.

      There must be some curve known to science where we get over the low-brow jokes and look at the tech seriously but I guess we’re not there quite yet.

        1. There is a good paper here on the bandwidth and speed of the olfactory sense. Obviously this only diminishes with age and injury.

          Time to smell: a cascade model of human olfactory perception based on response-time (RT) measurement

          I have read and thought about the topic, it is just that I concluded that it was not worth taking seriously as a potential product. So many problems and so little value/reward.

        1. Oh, and the farting on cream cake is an old meme. From a Youtube video of a woman who probably has more than one way of turning cream sour. And then Chris-Chan did the same thing. And now we’re just waiting for the Elder Gods to pull the plug on this whole “humanity” thing.

          You should be able to find the video if you look at all. “Cakefarts” is the magic word.

          Actually long before that, I recall on Usenet, one of the many fantastic multi-cross-posted trollfests, a post about Courtney Love and some other woman farting on cream cakes, and all green fungus coming off it and stuff. So maybe that’s the inspiration behind the madness of the video that came a few years later. The Usenet post will’ve been about 1996 or so, guessing.

          Usenet was a fantastic alternative culture. Bit of a pisser it died. Since ISPs stopped hosting it, the concentration of uptight nerds has increased to infestation levels. Of course people like that were always part of Usenet, but there were enough random (very) random people, who’d clicked the “Newsgroup” link in their ISP’s software pack, just out of curiosity. Many of the greatest people came along that way.

          The irony with Usenet, is it’s bandwidth and storage requirements would barely even show up on an ISP’s monthly statement these days, with people streaming HDTV across the globe. Though it was always a bit of a legal niggle, and many complete arse-pains made a big fuss of themselves there. But since killfiles were built-in at every level, there was really no need for anyone to suffer something if they didn’t want to.

          It was actually pretty much a perfect anarchy. The fact there was no physical property, and you can’t stab someone through it, made that a lot easier to achieve of course.

          And there’s some quality digression for ya.

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