The last 20 years of gaming have treated us to better graphics and sound, more innovative control schemes, and more mature and sophisticated storylines. Could the next innovation involve the olfactory system? If the team behind some unique British Army training videos have anything to say about it, then yes.
According to a Daily Mail article, researchers in the U.K. have partnered with the Ministry of Defence there to make training videos for the British Army a tad more immersive. While the troops watch the videos, foul smells are released into the air, appropriate to what's onscreen.
For example, a training video involving a real-life village would have the smell of cooking food associated with it, teaching the soldier to associate that village or type of village with that smell.
Then, when the soldier enters the village in real life, the absence of such a smell could signify that the area had been evacuated and taken over by hostile forces. Or that no one was cooking at that time.
Professor Bob Stone, an engineering professor and research director of the Human Factors Integration Defence Technology Centre (HFIDTC, or SHIELD) at Birmingham University, says the scent delivery system, or SDS100, consists of a compressed air chamber with eight compartments and four fans. Each compartment holds a pot of wax, chemically infused with a particular odor.
With 100 scent options available, including "weapon fire," "cat urine," and "human feces," it's no wonder the researchers speculate that this technology could be incorporated into video games "within three to five years" ('cause gamers just love the smell of cat urine).
Imagine playing Halo 5 and inhaling the stench of plasma--whatever that smells like--whenever your plasma rifle overheats. Or entering a sewage area in an RPG and being hit with a wiff of well, raw sewage. Immersive? Yes, for you. How the people you share your house with will feel about it will depend on how this is implemented.
How strong is the smell? Where can you get replacement smells when your old smells run out? And how much will those cost? These are questions game developers and hardware manufacturer will have to ask themselves if they plan to implement this technology.