I was trying to think of an amusing olfactory pun to title this, but I thought it better to just stick to the facts. Scent Sciences have developed a new USB peripheral capable of emiting odours relating to things seen on screen.
The device, named ScentScape, plugs into your PC or games console and uses replacable cartridges to produce scents. Each cartridge is capable of manifesting twenty basic scents, and under heavy use is estimated to last for up to 200 hours. The basic scents include smoke, pine forest and flowers. Standard and genre-specific cartridges will be available, although pricing for the cartridges has not yet been announced.
Whilst it would be easy to mock the device and make numerous “smell-o-vision” jokes, or dwell on exactly how much having a box emitting the offensive malodour of zombie decay would enhance, say, Resident Evil, the fact is that if the box performs as well as suggested then there are numerous fascinating and innovative applications it could have.
The Playstation 3 version of Call of Duty: Black Ops and Gran Turismo are already 3D capable. Combine the immersion offered by 3D gaming, with being able to actually smell burning rubber and exhaust fumes in GT5, or the dense fog of war in Call of Duty, or even utilising the flower scent to enhance PSN art-em-up Flower.
Then there are of course more niche, experimental things that could be done. Do you remember the dog-sim A Dog’s Life on PS2? Now imagine playing the game again, but using your own olfactory sense to find and follow scents! Perhaps not an idea for mainstream success, but I’m sure developers will find plenty of interesting and quirky ways to utilise the technology.
It must be said that the device was in action at CES, and is scheduled for another showing it GDC, but there have been many tantilising consumer electronics demonstrated at past CES shows that for various reasons never made it into full scale production, so there’s always the chance that ScentScape may not make it to sale, but with an estimated price tag of $69.99 US (£43.70) and bags of potential, I think it has a good chance to find it’s way to shelves before the year is out.