A METAVERSE without smells would be like living in black and white – and even bad things like body odor and farts have a place.
That’s according to a sensory scientist pushing the boundaries of virtual reality to a whole new level.
Virtual reality and the metaverse have largely focused on seeing, hearing and feeling, but taste and smell are often overlooked, mainly because they are so complex to achieve.
But a company called OVR Technology has found a way to bring a scent to the virtual world that could eventually pave the way for the metaverse as well.
And for a truly multi-sensory experience, it shouldn’t just be all the wonderful smells like roses or food, but also the ones we usually avoid in the real world.
“To me, living in the fragrance world, all smells are interesting, even bad smells, and they have their function,” OVR Technology boss Aaron Wisniewski told The Sun.
“They all have a role – smells are human.
‘Sure, fart smell, you could be kidding someone.
“But there are also some really interesting, more impactful bad smells.”
For example, his team worked with a researcher on a program called Brave Mind that uses scent to help veterans with PTSD.
Along with virtual reality, it uses horrible smells like blood, poo, urine, burning hair and smoke to help them recover.
“All those awful smells are memory triggers. You can use them in a therapeutic setting,” he said.
“We’re just scratching the surface of what can be done with this technology.”
But he doesn’t believe the metaverse will be about recreating existing scents, new scents will be invented as well.
“We get to reinvent what smell is, what the smell is from space and lasers and monsters and all that cool stuff,” he continued.
“So we’re not afraid of bad smells, but what we’re doing is figuring out which scents we can create and who we can work with to create a measurable positive impact.”
One of the more pleasant scents the four-year-old company has developed is mindfulness experiences, which allow users to choose from natural settings such as a waterfall or a beach where they can reach for scent balls.
The smart technology works with a cartridge attached to the front of the VR headset that releases tiny scent particles when you approach the relevant virtual object using invisible geometry.
So when you get close to a rose, you start to smell it – and the closer you bring it to you, the stronger the scent becomes.
Wisniewski – an outspoken “mad scientist” who has long worked on all things smell – said smell is key to the metaverse because it has a huge unconscious influence on memory, emotions and motivations.
“I think a lot of people who have lost their sense of smell during Covid can testify, ‘oh wow, that’s really important,'” he said.
“And many people who have lost their sense of smell describe it as disconnected from reality, like black and white or behind a glass plate.
“I’d hate to see the metaverse related to this feeling, collective digital anosmia.”
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