We already have a three-dimensional TV, surround sound and motion controllers, but there is one thing that still prevents total immersion in virtual reality: the smell. Now researchers from the University of California at San Diego and Samsung Electronics in Suwon, South Korea say they have come up with a device that can change the smell in our living room.
Attempts to create a virtual odors are not something new, but scientists have been able to verify that the previous methods do not provide sufficient control and too cumbersome to use them at home. Their new approach, published this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie, detects gases in small cells of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a material that gives the Silly Putty its unusual properties. Each cell has a small hole in the top, which is opened when the gas inside the heated, releasing the desired flavor.
The device can be turned on or off in just 40 seconds, the time required for heating or cooling of gases, which is a significant advantage over previous developments which suffered far too long "walks" odors. To demonstrate the potential for rapid switching of odors, the researchers tested the odors two spirits: Live by Jennifer Lopez and Passion by Elizabeth Taylor. Testers were able to recognize the smells, the difference between the inclusion of only 2 minutes.