Virtual Reality already does a pretty good job of fooling our eyes and ears, but we need to remember that we have other senses as well. Peter Sassaman is trying to add smell to our VR experiences with his device, Cilia, which just launched on Kickstarter.

Rev VR Podcast – Episode 112

Some of you already know Peter from his work on an open-source haptic glove, Gauntl33t, which he showed off at the first SVVR Expo. Now, he has decided that smell will be his next endeavor.

We all have memories that are triggered by a certain smell or odor. The brain creates explicit memories and attaches an odor to them. Studies have shown that recreating these odors will cause you to recall memories much clearer than other sense driven stimuli. If smells are added to virtual reality, it is possible that a stronger sense of presence could theoretically be achieved.

Cilia works by quickly heating up oil based scents during the appropriate scenes in a VR experience. This wisps of odor will be distributed in front of you during a seated experience. To help with adoption of this hardware, Peter and his team are creating a simple SDK that will allow developers to easily add scents to their games or experiences and allow for a more immersive feeling.

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I have personally backed this Kickstarter, and feel that the reward tiers are reasonable. I would love to see the community help back this project, and push for additional senses to be incorporated into the future of VR.

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  • illuzion

    I really admire the ambition here, I still feel that car scents may not really add immersion but custom scents in time without a doubt. I guess if you used the right scents with the right project of course this would be pretty neat.
    Sitting on the fence on this one, but love the innovation :)

  • There’s a credibility problem here. I believe the hardware will be interesting in and off itself, but until you ship a million units they’re not going to make games for it, so it’s not worth much for me to own the hardware. I believe VR games would be more interesting if game developers added support, but there’s many different ways to do this and no clear winner. There are many different smells and no clear core feature set developers can rely on.

    What I would want to see *BEFORE* I see Smell-O-vision type hardware making a comeback is some kind of a hardware abstraction layer to solve the trust issue. Game developers can
    develop for an abstract smell device and be sure that hardware will come
    that will take advantage of it; and smell device hardware manufacturers
    (note, plural) can be sure that there is software that will support
    their devices. I want to see DirectSmell or Smell Digital Interface or whatever. I want the game to be able to say, I want cookie smell at 30% of maximum smell amplitude, and for the HAL and driver to cooperate in attempting to fulfill that smell. Maybe there is a “baked goods” smell that’s close enough; maybe you need to mix 10% strength vanilla smell with 20% strength butter and 20% caramel to synthesize a cookie-like smell; the game doesn’t need to know or care.