When your life isn’t as exciting as it used to be, you can always sink into your virtual world. You wear a headset to see your wildest fantasies right before your eyes. You put on surround-sound headphones to hear chirping birds around you in a virtual forest. You hold your motion controllers to catch the virtual ball being thrown at you. The only thing that is left is the smell of lavender in a virtual heaven! Luckily, VR developers haven’t spared this detail either.
Vaqso is an odor device that releases scents that sync with your VR experiences. The project is led by Kentaro Kawaguchi, CEO of a Japanese company based in Tokyo known for using odors for promotional services in restaurants. The project aims to add the sense of smell in VR experiences, such as movies and games.
The device is 120mm long, the size of a candy bar. It can be attached below any virtual headset, such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, using a magnet. When attached, it is placed right by the nostrils so the odours can be received directly by the user.
Vasqo can sync its odours depending on the virtual atmosphere you are in. You can either smell the daisies around you or the rotten stench of corpses in a murderer’s basement in your virtual world! Three odour cartridges are currently installed in the prototype device. The developers plan to include five to ten different odour cartridges in the finished product.
The device also includes a small fan that adjusts its spinning speed depending on how close you are to the odour-releasing object in the virtual world. The spinning speed of this fan can either strengthen or weaken the smell.
Vasqo already has the necessary codes designed for VR game developers. The developers are using a Unity Game Engine plug-in to help VR developers sync their game with the device. The game developers only need to insert the “Include” command at the beginning of their code, as well as outline the location code where the scent should be triggered in the game.
Though the device is still in development, it is one of the most promising among its competitors, FeelReal and Noslus Rift. Unlike these headsets, Vasqo has advantage of being an add-on that could be placed under any virtual headset.
Vasqo plans to have a developer’s site to gather feedback and opinions from its consumers. The developers plan to release a consumer version of the device later in 2017.
The world is slowly drifting away from reality, replacing it with a more exciting version of virtual reality. We are trying to acquire all the five senses into this virtual world to make it seem like we are actually there. By including the sense of smell in a virtual world, we are taking another step to fully immersing ourselves into a world we can’t reach, but can only imagine of being there. It is a significant step away from reality and into virtual reality.