Sniffing a rose or a mojito while playing a video game | technology

Imagine that you are playing a video game with VR glasses, and when the character approaches the garden, you are sitting on the couch, you start to smell roses, lilies, or wet leaves. The scent wanes until it disappears when the character changes scenery and then turns out to be sweeter, as he approaches the fruit shop. Because of its complexity, the sense of smell has been left out of immersive digital environments contemplating vision, hearing, and touch at their most sophisticated. Or at least that’s how it has been until now.

A group of researchers from Hong Kong and China have developed millimeter generators that contain scented paraffin wax and are wirelessly integrated into virtual reality glasses used in video games, 4D movies, or in medical or educational activities. In addition to translating the scent of a cup of coffee or a cup of mojito into a video game, the device will also allow in the future, for example, a botany student to learn different types of plants by the scent of their leaves.

Apply today in Nature CommunicationsAnd The device can be integrated into a sticker or mask, allowing the user to smell different scents while performing activities in virtual universes. As it can be confusing to mix different scents that are too strong, this device delivers perfume “precisely to a specific area” in less than two seconds and based on the user’s motion.

“olfactory interfaces can display the developments of virtual and augmented reality,” asserts Xinge Yu, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong and one of the authors of the project, because they add new meaning to experiences, which until now have been limited to vision, hearing, and touch. In addition to providing more authentic and realistic interaction in virtual or augmented reality scenarios, this technology can also be used as an alternative means of communication or collaboration with medical and psychological therapies, which need to trigger specific memories or sensations in their patients through smell.

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Devices that are integrated into virtual reality glasses, which can contain one, two or nine odor generators.
Devices that are integrated into virtual reality glasses, which can contain one, two or nine odor generators.xingeyu

The generator is about the size of a mobile phone chip and consists of various layers, including paraffin wax mixed with perfumes; a heat tonic made with traces of gold that uses heat to melt the wax and release the scent; and a mechanical actuator that controls the temperature. The researchers presented two models in which this generator is integrated. The first is a small sticker that sticks directly to the skin under your nose, with two scent options.

The second is made in the form of a mask that can combine up to nine different scents. “We conducted a series of experiments to assess whether the high temperature of the device could pose a safety issue for users, and the results showed that it is safe,” the professor explained to EL PAÍS.

In total, the devices were tested with 30 different scents, including pineapple, ginger, green tea, caramel, candy, and more. However, says Yu, “any kind of scent” can be adapted, whether it’s from food, drinks, or even a loved one’s perfume. “The fragrance mixed in the wax can be directly altered to generate different types of scents without any modification to the system,” he explains.

The researchers say that development of this technology is at an initial stage, but they estimate that it could be commercialized in about two years in a way integrated into virtual reality glasses, at an additional cost of around US$200 (€180). , in the current conversion).

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Last year, Swedish researchers presented a version of a similar odor generator, also built into a virtual reality headset. However, they use liquid perfume bottles attached to wires which the user has to hold, which is impractical. The prototype was tested in a video game where the participant moves through a virtual cellar and picks up wine glasses. When the player raises the glass, the device releases a scent.

company OVR technology Presentation of its version at the CES 2023 technology fair: a device that stays on the user’s nose and is connected to virtual glasses. According to the company, it’s possible to combine “thousands of scents,” though they admit it’s “not designed to exactly replicate real-world scents,” but to provide new synthetic scents. The company does not disclose the cost of the product, but confirms that it will be on sale throughout this year.

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