Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Odor Radar and Situational Awareness

Smell significantly enhances sense of realism in virtual reality, researchers find
Apr 2022,

While fighting zombies in survival mode, smell is likely the last thing on your mind. But our research has shown that the sense least associated with virtual reality actually holds the key to a more immersive experience. Participants in our study felt that smell gave them a greater sense of really "being there" in the virtual environment.

Surely a sweet-smelling game like Animal Crossing would be a better candidate for testing this theory? Well, as it turns out, bad smells may enhance the VR experience much more than good smells. 

Yes, and in fact, bad smells are about to do a lot more than good smells. Whether it's monitoring isoprene in the workplace to enforce occupational mental health regulations (science fiction I know, but it has to start somewhere), or using an odor alert system at work that gets more intense as your inbox gets too full, so you don't have to look or listen to it, we will be using odors in new ways in our everyday lives. It's the last sense to be digitized, to enter the interconnected datasphere, but universal odor machines and the coming chemosensor revolution are just two examples of why the time is coming for us to recognize the untapped potential of this new channel for communication. 

via The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation CSIRO, Australia: Nicholas S. Archer et al, Odour enhances the sense of presence in a virtual reality environment, PLOS ONE (2022). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0265039

Post Script:
Little Signals: A Google multi-object system to deliver notifications in a gentler manner
Apr 2022,

Only a few days after this post was published, I'm updating it with a news article from engineers at Google tells us there are other people thinking about how to communicate to users in new ways. 

Designed to deliver notifications to users in a gentler manner than current systems.

One such device is called simply Air, and it sends notifications via puffs of air, similar, Google says, to the slight movement of leaves on a plant as they rustle in response to a slight breeze. Another is called Button—it grows as it fills with information, such as messages piling up in an email folder. Twisting it one way reveals more details, while twisting the other way reveals fewer details. There is also a device called Movement—it has seven pegs that are lined up and which rise and fall. It is meant to convey timer or calendar notifications.

Putting a nose in the visual field acts as a point of reference thereby lessening motion sickness and disorientation in virtual reality:
Simulated Oversight, 2022

Smells aren't just good for video games, but for old-fashioned role playing games as well:
Adventure Scents - Try our scent special effects to enhance your favorite games, books, movies, costumes, and more. Alchemist's Lab, Ancient Library, Bombed-Out Ruins; there's 60 in all.

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