Technology 3 min read

New Device can Artificially Augment our Sense of Smell

Imagineering Institute |

Imagineering Institute |

Malaysian researchers have reportedly found a way to give people a sense of smell in mixed reality environments.

A team of researchers from the Imagineering Institute in Malaysia has developed a technology that can stimulate a person’s sense of smell while immersed in mixed reality. Apparently, the goal of this new tech is to give people real-time change in smell, or smell an occasion while in augmented reality or virtual reality environments.

Trying to manipulate people’s senses during immersive experiences, particularly in movie houses, is nothing new. In fact, developing a technology that can do such a feat has been possible since the late 1950s. Back then, a tech called AromaRama was used to spread different scents across the cinema to let people smell what’s shown on the screen.

The Malaysian researchers’ method is much more efficient in providing the same results but through mixed reality applications. Dubbed as the Digital Smell, this new technology can induce smell with the help of the electricity flowing through thin electrodes that will be attached to the inner linings of a person’s nose.

The team, led by Kasun Karunanayaka, uses electricity to experiment with the different patterns of nasal stimulation. They reportedly change the frequency and amount of current to produce realistic smell sensations.

During their experiment, Karunanayaka’s team stuck the thin, flexible cable up the noses of their volunteers. They attached a tiny camera with silver electrodes to the tip of the wire so they could navigate the nasal passages of the volunteers. Once the electrodes touched the olfactory epithelium located three inches into the nasal cavity, they stimulated the neurons of the people by sending electric charges to them.

“We’ll see which areas in the brain are activated in each condition, and then compare the two patterns of activity. Are they activating the same areas of the brain?” If so, that brain region could become the target for future research,” Karunanayaka was quoted as saying.

The results of the team’s experiment revealed that the volunteers were able to smell fragrant or chemical odors. Some also described smelling fruity, sweet, toasted, minty, and woody smells.

The researchers now want to determine the exact parameters to create specific odors. They are also planning to redesign the device so people would be more comfortable using it.

Would it really be possible to perfectly simulate or even stimulate the sense of smell and the other human senses through mixed reality?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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