Building the scent-a-verse 

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The next era of digital olfactive technology will lead to deeper immersion and engagement in the metaverse.

Analysis

As the development of the metaverse and wearable technology continues, we can expect a shift from screen-based interactions toward 6G-powered immersive experience. Sensorial technology will be key in allowing humans to have digital sensory experiences that are similar to real life: this includes being able to smell things online.

A global study by Ericsson found that by 2030, most consumers will expect our sense of smell to play a key role in how we experience the internet. In an interview with Fast Company, OVR Technologies vice president, Sarah Socia believes that smell is essential to the metaverse, as it’s the “only sense that is directly connected to the limbic system, a part of the body crucial for memory and emotion”, – it’s the ultimate key for emotional engagement.

Today, as metaverse designers and architects map out future digital experiences, many are recognising the importance of smell as a crucial part of the puzzle. However, unlike audio and visual, scent is not yet digitally transmissible. Our visual system uses three receptors to see colours and objects, while our olfactory system has over 4,000 receptors to perceive millions of odours. This complex system is being explored by a small army of innovators looking to create scent’s equivalent of an RGB code.

US-based companyOVR Technologies has developed VR hardware that includes a Bluetooth-enabled snap-on cartridge preloaded with nine chemical compounds, which when combined, can make hundreds of scents through digitally programmed cues.

In Spain, Olorama Technology has developed a wireless digital scent synthesiser that synchronises different smells with images, music and interactive activations. Scent is delivered to users via scent-delivery boxes, which can be activated using voice commands.

Japanese scent startup Aromajoin has devised the Aroma Shooter, a device that allows users to control scents from cartridges in a standalone unit through smartphones and VR equipment.

Deepmind

Why it matters

he metaverse proposes limitless possibilities for sensory immersion, and early adopters will expect additional visceral layers to enhance their virtual experiences. Developers will need to innovate and identify ways to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds via sensory connections. Olfactive technology is an important piece to this puzzle, as it builds on emotional receptors to trigger scent memories; this is key to deliver more personalised engagement and cater to the many emotional needs of humans in the metaverse.

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