How cool would it be to “smell” the future?
In my previous post we kicked-off a journey into the Internet of Senses and as promised, we're now immersing ourselves one sense at the time, so let's start with the sense of smell!
Why smell? One reason being that in the US, the national Sense Of Smell Day is celebrated on the last Saturday in April, which this year falls on April 24th, so let's start celebrating the sense of smell.
To get the full picture, let's travel back in time... to 1959, when two projects (AromaRama and Smell-O-Vision) were attempting similar innovations in cinema by bringing aromas to big audiences. Unfortunately those solutions were technologically deficient, very expensive, impractical, and unnecessary. Fast forward to today and we only find similar initiatives in rare cases and very specific locations.
For "private" consumption, things came only in late 90's when a company produced a device called the iSmell that was connected via USB to a PC, and could emit odors right on your desk. When it was launched Wired wrote that if that technology would take off, it would launch the next Web revolution...but it clearly never ended up taking off. Then in 2006, iSmell was even named one of the "25 Worst Tech Products of All Time" by PC World Magazine. Even if they raised $20M, the project failed...and it failed BIG.
One of the main flaws of trying to integrate "smell" was it was trying to solve a problem that nobody had...and few industries ever really tried it.
Just like VR that's still struggling to achieve mainstream usage, the potential for smells seemed rich thanks to many other projects - like oPhone or Scentee that could dispense smells directly from a mobile phone - that failed.
But also just like VR, the failed quest to bring smells to the internet and more mainstream adoption is still on...and it may be closer to reality than you think. The fact is that the "Smell-o-Vision" is real and literally knocking at our doors; the Internet of Senses may be the final materialization of the past attempts!
A recent BBC article highlighted the Founder and Director of the Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore as an example of “The people who want to send smells through your TV.” Today there are several great international projects pioneering this work, from Aromajoin in Asia, to Olorama in Europe, to OVR and Hapticsol in America, just to mention a few.
Some people like the award-winning artist Daniel Stricker believe that “olfactory virtual reality is one of the greatest storytelling tools that has ever been invented.” I must say, those who try it, immediately fall in love with it.
Understanding how to find the best use cases, how to design a great UX, and how to ignite mass consumption to avoid more flops are the keys to solving the equation and quest that I just described above.
If you're still skeptical, bear with me and look at the overall XR equation, that is indeed getting very interesting, and some recent industry news that you should be aware of show it:
- Since March, Facebook has nearly 10,000 employees in the Reality Labs division (in other words a fifth of the employees are now working on VR and AR)
- This month Microsoft got a contract worth up to $22 billion to outfit the US Army with 120,000 AR headsets
- Just last week, Apple applied for Patents that Cover “Micro-gesture” XR Input, Head-worn Haptics to Guide User Attention
And yes, the Metaverse is finally popping up on our "newsfeeds" and suddenly people want to leverage it and want to be ready for it.
If you're curious and want to learn more, here are some upcoming events that might be of interest:
- VR/AR Device Showcase - April 21 (Virtual)
- Unlimited Realities - May 6-7 (Virtual)
- The Places _ VR Festival - September 16-18 (Germany)
- AWE 2021 - November 9-11 (USA)
Stay tuned for the next article in this Internet of Senses series to find out which sense will be covering next 👋🏼