OVR Technology is bringing smell to virtual reality
Startup OVR Technology is incorporating smell into virtual reality and using it in a new program designed to allow people to experience the effects of climate change.
Why it matters: VR can already simulate sight, sound and a sense of movement, but adding smell can help stimulate memories and emotional experiences, making virtual reality all the more real.
How it works: A device called the ION, which contains vials of different scents, is attached to a VR headset.
- When a user interacts with an object in virtual reality connected to one of those scents — say, a rose — a tiny electric charge releases the matching fragrance.
What's happening: OVR has worked with a pair of Australian artists to create a climate change-themed VR experience called "Shifting Homes" that will premiere at the Venice Biennale this weekend.
- "Shifting Homes" puts the user on the Pacific island of Samoa, which is threatened by rising sea levels and storms worsened by climate change.
- I tried it out at the Newlab in Brooklyn. As the mayor of the Samoan village Poutasi narrated the story of his island, I could watch the gentle seas and smell the sandy beaches.
- Later, as storms raged, I could smell the ozone from a lightning strike and the stench of smoke as a fire consumed the village, before rising seas submerged me beneath virtual water.
The bottom line: Technologists have tried to incorporate scents in TV and movies for decades, but the personalized, customizable platform of VR might finally be the right niche for a true Smell-O-Vision.