Virtual reality will eventually tackle every one of our sensory inputs. For now, we have the audio-visual end of things well-covered. Although there’s still plenty of room for advancing the state of the art.
There isn’t quite as much attention being given to the olfactory side of things however. That is to say, your sense of smell. While a modern VR system can render an ultra-realistic VR garbage fire in exquisite detail, you can’t yet enjoy the putrid stench of burning waste.
Feels Real Man
FeelReal wants to change that. The company has actually been around for a while. They first showed off their smell generating technology back in 2015 and launched a Kickstarter around the same time. The original concept was a mask that included smells, mist and wind sensations. Sadly, it didn’t seem that people were too interested in the concept. The Kickstarter received only about half of the funding goal before ending without success. FeelReal hasn’t really made much of a public appearance since then. At least, that is, until now.
Get Your Boba Face On
It turns out that despite not getting their money funded by a crowd of people, FeelReal have stuck by their vision and kept working on their smell generator. It’s a real product that’s up for pre-order right now. The FeelReal mask is now an attachment that’s set to work with a number of existing VR headsets. It also has the side benefit of making you look like a Star Wars character, which may be an extra benefit to some.
FeelReal says their mask can generate hundreds of distinct smells. Using chemical compounds similar to those used to flavour foods, you can now smell burning tire rubber or roses. Depending on what sorts of VR worlds you like to live in. Although, I guess some VR worlds would become less appealing if you could smell them. I’m looking at you Resident Evil 7.
It seems however, that you don’t have access to all 255 scents at once. Instead you install them using the smell cartridge according to the specific VR experience you plan to have. It’s almost like the early days of computer graphics, where you had a large palette of colours to work with, but could only show a handful of them on screen at once.
Right now, the FeelReal website lists a number of games that are supported, with the evergreen Skyrim listed among them. It’s not perfectly clear, but it seems that game support comes in the form of mods provided by FeelReal. Whether these mods are officially supported by the game developers in question is anyone’s guess.
Right now we also have no idea on exact release dates or how much you’ll have to pay in order to own a unit, but if you sign up for the newsletter you’ll be smelling the roses before anyone else.