The metaverse promises fully immersive, 3D worlds where people may meet, interact, work, and play. Some companies are creating technologies to expand the immersive nature of the metaverse by introducing smell and touch. How are these technologies being integrated into the metaverse experience?
Smell in the Metaverse
While in its early stages, some companies are incorporating smell into the virtual reality (VR) headsets that individuals use to experience the metaverse.
For example, OVR Technology showcased a headset that contains a cartridge with eight primary aromas that can be combined to create different scents. The company expects to release this product during 2023.
Through its headsets, the company is looking to recreate as accurately as possible the way that humans experience smell in the real world. A cartridge, filled with vials of scents manufactured in the company’s lab, snaps onto the headset and fits over the nose. Users testing the headsets can select fragrances, such as picking a rose. Once you pull the rose away, the smell disappears instead of lingering. The company is also working on not-so-pleasant odors to represent real-life experiences.
Taiwanese technology company HTC also introduced a high-end VR headset that looks to create the experience of smell for individuals seeking immersive metaverse experiences. For example, it allows users to manipulate objects in a VR environment and sniff them, much like an individual would bring a peach or glass or wine to their nose.
In addition to their entertainment value, such devices may be used to help individuals recover their sense of smell following virus infections that damage the olfactory system, such as COVID-19.
Getting the “Feel” of the Metaverse
Companies are also working on haptic devices, or devices that replicate the sense of touch. For example, Microsoft and Meta are investing billions to support technologies including wearables that replicate touch.
One such on display at the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES2023) was a product that incorporated yellow gloves and a back vest that relayed sensations through buzzes and vibrations to stimulate the sense of touch.
Other are looking to recreate the feel of the ground beneath your feet as you walk or the feeling of holding someone’s hand.
Many of these “touch” technologies are in their early stages, so they may not perfectly relay the sense of touch.
Other, more advanced technologies involving touch are more expensive and are being used selectively. One such application is the use of touch technology in bomb units. Another is in the field of medicine.
Technology Likely to Advance
As with most technologies, smell and touch are in their early stages. In time, they are likely to become more advanced and reasonably priced, allowing individuals to enjoy a more immersive metaverse experience.
 Hadero, Haleluya and Yamat, Rio, Metaverse Ventures Bring Small and Taste to Virtual Reality at CES 2023, Fortune, 1/8/23
 Lefrak, Mikaela, Wat to Smell in Virtual Reality? A Vermont-Based Startup Has the Technology, WBUR, 3/14/22
 Chadwick, Jonathan, The Real-Life Small-O-Vision? Scientists Develop a Device that Attaches to Your VR Headset and Blasts Aromas Up Your Nose While You Play Video Games, Daily Mail, 10/26/22
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