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VR Interfaces: Scent Wave


Overview of Scent Wave
Of all our senses, smell is our most primal. Animals need the sense of smell to survive. Although a blind rat might survive, a rat without its sense of smell can't mate or find food. Smell can also be used to navigate: you cannot see that peat bog beyond the forest yet, but you can certainly smell it.

Smell cannot tell us too well a direction, only that something stinky is nearby. We rely on other senses to find out where, smell just warns us that it is nearby, when the source may be out of sight and beyond hearing. Removing the smell from the equation takes away one of our senses, abstracts the realism of the environment.

How often have you identified someone by their perfume or after shave? Been tempted to buy some food based only on the wonderful smell wafting out? Breathed deeply in as you open a new jar of coffee? Held your nose as you?ve walked past a dung heap?

Scents and smells are ubiquitous, they are part of our everyday world. Yet, when you enter VR worlds, you almost always lose your sense of smell. Sight is covered, hearing is covered via speakers, even touch is covered via haptic gloves and other accessories. Smell usually remains abandoned, lacking hardware to cover it.

Scent Wave is a single-scent dispenser, each unit holding and dispensing a single scent-stick. Using a dry-air technology that releases fragrance without sprays, aerosols or heated oils, Scent Wave is one ofthose systems that will work after being bunged in a cupboard for six months. Used primarily in retail environments, this system does often find use in large-scale VR such as military simulations and immersive training.

Each unit has adjustable duration and intensity settings so it can output smells at different levels, and work with other units to change smells depending on the situation at hand ? albeit with a manual change-over.

Each Scent Wave is loaded with a scent cartridge that is embedded with a unique fragrance. These cartridges can be easily replaced, enabling you to change scents ad-hoc. The scent library for these cartridges has over a thousand different scents, including such wonders as ?coconut?, ?salt air?, and ?rotting corpse? for almost every conceivable need.

Scent Wave?s scent production can be very mild, or it can be sickly strong. However, its biggest disadvantage is it cannot currently be computer-controlled. These units must be manually adjusted, or work with in-built motion sensors to trigger as a victim walks past. Very good for commercial presentations of a single product, they leave much to be desired for large-scale VR, and are next to useless for small-scale and home systems.

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