Virtual reality just got a lot more sensory thanks to a high-tech face mask created by the City University of Hong Kong researchers.
The face mask can release up to nine scents on demand, making VR experiences more immersive and multisensory. The mask can even be used to replicate the scent of a loved one during virtual meetings, according to its creators.
The team behind the mask, led by Xinge Yu, created two different devices: a flexible patch with two cells mounted on the upper lip and a face mask with a grid of nine different smells that are capable of creating a personalized, localized odorous environment.
A small chip controls both devices and can communicate wirelessly with computers via Bluetooth.
When using virtual reality, scents can be released as the user approaches certain objects. These scents are made by adding liquid perfumes to containers made of paraffin, which are heated to 50°C (122°F) with a small radiator to release the scent.
The devices are placed near the nose, so users can smell the scent within 1.5 seconds of it being activated.
The system has been tested in an experiment with 11 volunteers who detected different odors, including mint, jasmine, lavender and pineapple, with an average success rate of 93%.
This development is a game-changer for virtual reality companies and agencies that use VR to engage with customers.
While virtual reality can cater to the senses of sight, sound and touch, smell is often overlooked. Adding smell could make virtual experiences more memorable and engaging, helping brands stand out in a crowded market.