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Adding an Olfactory Dimension To Games 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the secret-cow-level-not-so-alluring-anymore dept.
cylonlover writes "California-based company Scent Sciences is looking to bring an olfactory dimension to computer games with its ScentScape personal digital scent delivery system. The ScentScape Gaming Suite system consists of a unit that plugs into a PC or gaming console via USB and generates smells using scent cartridges. As well as aiming for the development of ScentScape-capable games from games developers, the system also allows gamers to add scents to existing games and share these with other ScentScape system users."
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Adding an Olfactory Dimension To Games

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  • by RsG (809189) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:10AM (#34913072)

    But seriously folks, this is an awful, awful idea. If given a choice between sinking my money into this or into the Phantom console, I'd have to think a bit before making up my mind.

    Want to make a game with an olfactory element? Go for it. Make the character someone/something with an enhanced sense of smell and display whatever their nose picks up as a visual overlay, or with an in game radar map. This has been done at least twice that I'm aware of, and works just fine, conceptually. Make it a core gameplay element and you could do something original even.

    It also doesn't require either the player to use their very real nose to experience anything unpleasant, and doesn't require an expensive, useless, gimmicky peripheral.

    • by naz404 (1282810)
      Didn't this concept already win top vaporware [wired.com] /worst concept awards for a few years?

      DigiScents iSmell [wikipedia.org]
      • by gmhowell (26755)

        Love the story at the first link. Number two was bitching about Warcraft III. Now we are how many years into WoW? That entry made most interesting by number one, which was 'top vaporware'... in 2001.

      • by cvtan (752695)
        Here's another link http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/7.11/digiscent_pr.html [wired.com] I remember the DigiScent hype at the time. Unlike vision where you can use combinations of RGB light to fool the eye into seeing almost any color, there are no basis vectors for scent. The scent cartridge becomes unwieldy.
        • Unlike vision where you can use combinations of RGB light to fool the eye into seeing almost any color, there are no basis vectors for scent. The scent cartridge becomes unwieldy.

          ... but at least that means that a prankster can't send you a shit, rotten egg, butyric acid or worse scent if that isn't included in the cartridge in the first place.

      • Soooo...the lesson we take from that is that 2001's vaporware is today's product? Team Fortress 2, Warcraft 3, DN:Forever, Photoshop for OSX, 3G Mobile.
        Sure there are some real stinkers on that list, but it isn't exactly holding up well in hindsight.

        Perhaps this is the year of smells on the desktop...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I've been to war - there's nothing like Napalm in the morning, and its not pleasant - especially with burning flesh.

    • by goombah99 (560566)

      Reminds me of teledildonics which actually was/is a serious proposal as well. But maybe not a good one.

      • by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @03:22AM (#34913392)

        Reminds me of teledildonics which actually was/is a serious proposal as well. But maybe not a good one.

        Good? Any proposal that results in the creation of a website called "Slashdong" and a conference called "Arse Elektronika" is an awesome proposal !-)

      • by crossmr (957846)

        I knew a girl who ran who a semi-adult website who once had someone purchase a vibrator for her that could be operated via sms. It was of the style that she could wear for long periods during the day. Never heard what came of it..

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by lawnboy5-O (772026)
      No its not. Its in action and has been in Disney and other high end theme parks, and guess what - it works when done correctly. The process completely adds a tremendous dimension influence, and scent is most link to memory recall... games take on added emotion and connection as I would imagine, just as so in many rides and attractions....
      • How often do games have sewers? Gore? Imagine what Doom's zombies would smell like. Or Quake 4's Meat-Factory levels.

        • You say that like it's a bad thing! I'm currently trying to play Amnesia: Dark Descent, imagine how much scarier it would be if you could smell the dank of the water on stone. Sure, if the sewer smells were horrendously over-powering it might suck...but I'm guessing there'd be a way to "turn it down". Done right, it would be incredibly awesome.

          How incredibly cool would it be to *sniff sniff* detect a zombie approaching round a corner?
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      It also doesn't require either the player to use their very real nose to experience anything unpleasant, and doesn't require an expensive, useless, gimmicky peripheral.

      It's not useless. It is just simply not... enough... to... use... a... single one.
      I mean, com'on, in an immersive 3D gaming experince, you want to use a single expensive gimmick? Buddy, you'll need at least 4 of them for a true "surround" smelly experience... Just look at the today's sound systems - the decent ones would even have a bass-booster dedicated channel... now that's how you need to do it.

      Ahh, the smell of rotten corpses in the zombie caves!
      Or "the smell of napalm in the morning. The smell, you kn

    • 1. Don't worry much. This is one of the ideas that's been popping up again and again since the early 90. And every time it went nowhere, precisely because the awful downsides are that obvious and nobody wants it.

      But, as is the case with stupid ideas, just as you think you buried it at the crossroads with a stake through its chest, never to rise again, along comes an idiot investor and drops a drop of blood... err... a wad of cash, and it does rise again. I'm seriously starting to think there's some Dunning-

      • #1 - "Everything has already been done, no need in trying to improve anything." Bollocks. We tried 3D once before, it failed. And while it's very possible the current 3D trend will also fail, I can easily see a time when true 3D without glasses will hit like a storm. Technology advances, new ideas are born, improvements are made.

        #2 - Almost all of your downsides could easily be worked around if the delivery device was attached to the face / nose. As far as allergies go, I'd say epilepsy is pretty close

        • Have you actually RTFA? Because the gizmo there _isn't_ attached to the face, and is a verbatim repeat of everything that was wrong and stupid with the ones that failed, including basically all the factors I've listed, from lag to being unable to get rid of the previously produced smells.

          So, sorry, my assessment that it's yet another idiot who thinks he's the first to do the same stupidity, is still very much true. Or to quote everyone's favourite wisecracker, Bejamin Franklin, "The definition of insanity i

          • Have you actually RTFA? Because the gizmo there _isn't_ attached to the face, and is a verbatim repeat of everything that was wrong and stupid with the ones that failed, including basically all the factors I've listed, from lag to being unable to get rid of the previously produced smells.

            So, sorry, my assessment that it's yet another idiot who thinks he's the first to do the same stupidity, is still very much true. Or to quote everyone's favourite wisecracker, Bejamin Franklin, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

            Yes, maybe someone else can do it right, but these particular ass-clowns aren't it.

            Yes, I have read the article, and you are correct in your points. However, I typed my reply because it seemed more like you were attacking the idea itself, rather than this particular product.

            I think the idea has applications, but you're right about this particular implementation- its useless.

    • The Leather Goddesses of Phobos ?

      It came with a scratch 'n sniff card that was covered with various stinks (you smell , it stinks ,) that you would be directed to scratch over and get a waft of at various points in the game.

      What a bunch of idiots we all were.

    • I dimly recall them trying this in theaters back in the late 70's/early 80's. Smellovision, I think it was called. As I recall, it was a flop because audiences didn't give a damn. I somehow doubt that has changed. Smell won't be an important aspect of video gaming until VR reaches the full-immersion point. I suppose I would want to smell the environment on the holodeck, but I don't care so much in games.

      Plus since most games are variations of shooting things, I'd imagine the smells could be rather unpleasan

  • by spooje (582773)
    Great now we'll get
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everything will smell like ass...

  • by spooje (582773) <spooje@nOSpAM.hotmail.com> on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:12AM (#34913084) Homepage
    Ok, some posting problems here. I meant to say: Great now we'll get: Grand Theft Auto: Detroit. Now with real hooker smell!
    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      I think, that was the point -- to make player aware of how bad some things are.

      • It would've been perfect for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. For those of you who don't know (from the Wikipedia) :

        The location brings in the need to rely upon native flora and fauna to survive.[16] This is manifested in a stamina gauge, which constantly depletes during gameplay.[11] Failure to restore the gauge by eating has detrimental effects on gameplay, such as decreasing Snake's ability to aim his weapon and being heard by the enemy due to Snake's loud stomach grumbles.[16] Food can be stored in the backpack until it is needed. However, some types of food rot over time, and consuming rotten foods may result in Snake developing a stomach ache, causing the stamina gauge to deplete faster.

        And other in-game foods, especially poisonous ones, taste(though what we "taste" is mostly smell anyway) like crap right off the bat.

        I'm thinkin' of something that tastes like sodium and tomato juice, with faint hints of onion and vinegar. Maybe floral accents, depending on what it was stuffed with. We used to eat it all the time back in the day...anybody remember what it was? Hey, what ha

        • I'm thinkin' of something that tastes like sodium and tomato juice, with faint hints of onion and vinegar.

          Pussy!

    • by cappp (1822388)
      Leisure Suit Larry 7 (1996) did it with Scratch n Sniff cards, so did Leather Goddesses of Phobos back in the mid 80's and as far as LSL7 goes...it added about as much to the experience as you'd imagine. Decent gag, nothing much more.
    • Well, this better not cause the good ol' Gyruss video game to be remade with different smells for each wave. I don't want to have to smell Uranus.

    • by Ozmodium (1395791)

      Great now we'll get: Grand Theft Auto: Detroit. Now with real hooker smell!

      I wonder what codes you need to send the device to produce the proper mixture of Cotton Candy and Shame?

  • will be a nightmare to play. I would imagine zombies smell really really really bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lemmy Caution (8378)

      On the other hand, Plants vs Zombies would be a great game to try this on. Mmmmn, lavender. Ewwwww, putrescence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:12AM (#34913088)

    Plenty of games stink already.

    Really i can only think of a few real uses for this... And honestly i don't want to smell any of those things either.

  • by igotmybfg (525391)
    I can't imagine this being pleasant for a game like Doom...
    • by Skidborg (1585365)

      Smells like... blood.

      *six hours later*

      It still smells like blood.

      • More variety than you think...blood and dank, blood and burning plasma, blood and cordite, blood and ash/lava, blood and burning flesh, blood and rotting flesh, blood and bile... :)
        • by igotmybfg (525391)
          The rotting flesh is what I was imagining. I mean, you can't go down half a hallway without encountering something that's decaying and/or half-dead in that game.
  • by The_mad_linguist (1019680) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:20AM (#34913134)

    This is, like, a totally radical blast from the past. It was a blast from the past when the BBC brought back smellovision in '95, dudes and dudettes, and has been tried in one form or another since, like, a hundred years ago, man.

    Also, using scent for video games would be totally bogus, since there's olfactory latency and stuff involved.

  • When will they come out with a fart app for it?
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      When will they come out with a fart app for it?

      Never... you see, StinkPad is already a trademark of IBM and iSmell is the name of the previous failure of this technology. Too crowded for Apple to try it now... *duck*

  • Now we now why Jobs didn't want anymore fart apps. It's one thing to hear farts, it's another to have to actually smell them.

    • I think this would be ten layers of evil awesome. Release "fart app". Have 6 buttons for different farts. First 5 make the requisite hilarious noises, with no smell. Last one makes no sound, and releases ever-increasing amounts of fart smell the more the button is frantically pressed by user.
    • by jodio (569370)

      And why do farts stink?

      So deaf people can enjoy them too.

  • Seems a little early for April Fools.
  • I cannot imagine this taking off in any significant way. Can you imagine the sales person walking into ID Software and saying something like "What if gamers could smell Rage as well as see it? Huh? Huh? *Shrugs Eyebrows*
  • Really...

  • by Andy Smith (55346) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:37AM (#34913206) Homepage

    I have zero interest in this product. I don't want it. If it was on the market right now, and it worked perfectly, and it cost £1, I wouldn't buy it. If it was free, I wouldn't take it. It does not appeal to me in any way whatsoever.

    Companies have been banging on about "smell-o-vision" for TV for years. I don't think anyone is interested in that either.

    Scent cartridges? Jeez give me a break. As if anyone is going to waste money on smelly video games.

    • by Cochonou (576531)
      It's just because so far, the technology behind such products is not very compelling. You have significant lag, fans that blow the odor in your face, cartridges you need to replace, a very limited subset of odors, etc... of course, I'm not able to propose a better way to do this. But someone may find some day.
      And I'm sure that if some day the technology is refined and leads to the creation of a smell synthetizer, it will be a big hit. It really has the potential to greatly improve the immersion in games or
      • I think we're going to have to wait until we have reliable molecular-assemblers before we can really do this right. And even then it would have to be something like nose-plugs to prevent lag from waiting for the scent to reach your nose.

    • by Xugumad (39311)

      I'll raise that, and say if you paid me to take this, I would have to seriously consider whether it was worth the space it would consume.

    • I wish I had mod points because this is the best comment I have ever seen on slashdot.
  • Why do I think that the most common refill will be "fart"?

  • It's about time for another scratch and sniff manual!
  • by codepunk (167897) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @02:51AM (#34913270)

    This could take Leisure Suit Larry to a whole new level.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Forget LSL, this was kinda done for Leather Goddesses of Phobos using scratch-n-sniff.

  • by sjames (1099)

    This is the second or third time such a product has been announced. I can see it now, computer viruses that make the user sick!

  • I'm 70 years old and do this for all occasions, accidentally and on demand.Grand children think I'm a genius!

  • OMG - AGAIN ?!?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by meerling (1487879) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @04:07AM (#34913564)
    This has been tried several times, starting decades ago.

    Even though the smell systems 'can' be very effective, they have always had the same flaw. They may have others, but there is always the same big one plaguing them. They don't have a way to clear out the air without annoying the subjects. In other words, in a very short time, they just stink!

    Imagine if music players didn't end the previous musical note, the cacophony would quickly become unbearable. It's the same thing with these smell-o-vision gadgets. Sure there's a way around it, but who wants to wear a mask the whole time, or be in a freaking wind tunnel? Nobody, that's why they fail.

    Come on designers! Freaking google the stupid ideas and realize why they failed so you can either fix the problems or not be stupid enough to repeat the same basic design F-Ups of the past!
  • How about Peripheral Vision? I'd like to be able to see NPC cars and bad guys out of the corner of my eye for a change.

    • i think the wide screen tv's or the 3d glasses guys are covering that 3d glasses with a motion detector for when you turn your head would be awesome for video games much better next logical step than 3d glasses alone or smellovision can even pop some high def headphones in em if you get cleaning down and get em to not look like the product of some dystopian sci-fi future i imagine those would sell
  • But this game already stinks enough as it is... :P

  • by dmomo (256005) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @04:22AM (#34913634) Homepage

    And it was simply no fun.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/7.11/digiscent.html [wired.com]

    We had this at a "cyber cafe" that I worked in toward the end of the '90s. There was a VR headset that allowed you to fly through different landscapes (i remember a musty smelling cave). This machine sat in the corner and collected dust.

    Maybe when we get to the point where virtual worlds make us feel like we are actually standing somewhere different (and not just staring at the screen or wearing a headset), then we will need to tackle things like smell and touch. This will help our virtual world transcend that "uncanny valley".

    For now, it's just not needed. It's a gimmick, and probably an expensive one. I'm not insisted it will never be needed, but just not now.

    When we do finally need to need to tackle the "smelling" aspect of VR, my guess is that our immersion into the world will be so advanced compared to what we have now that it's being done by fooling our neurons, and not our eyes / ears / nose themselves. At that point, these devices will be moot, because we'll just be sending signals to the brain.

  • Because something that 2 girls one cup really was lacking was that added dimension.
  • Does this really have a market? I mean most hard-core gamers live in a basement room that smells like a dungeon anyway.
  • Oh dear (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bowdie (11884) on Tuesday January 18, 2011 @06:14AM (#34914098) Homepage

    "Honey, are you playing Second life again?"

          "No sweetheart"

    "So why does it smell like semen and cat hair in here?"

  • a Zombie creeps up from behind ... ...your character fails a Will throw .... ...o shit! I'm sure going to put a few more points in perception next time.
  • I guess that makes it a USB pongle ?!

  • A company called DigiScents had a product called iSmell, I saw it at GDC quite some years ago. It worked, it failed, give up.

  • You guys all have no imagination. Have you ever tried this? Can you not imagine it adding an interesting element to game play or other apps? Scent is the first of human senses, and is deeply tied in with memory. Also, you can think of it as a medium or a palette that can express both good and bad smells. When engineers first designed the monitor, everyone wasn't complaining that games would all have pictures of lemon party and goatse etc. Any game developer subjecting their customers to too many b

  • Imagine the following games with smell added:

    Terminator (oil and electric)
    Half Life (Creatures and chemicals)
    Need for Speed (Oil and Gas)
    Army of Two (Gun Powder and Burning wreckage)

    And these are the tame games. I'm sure I could come up with some others that would smell worse. Have a good gaming session and no one would come to your house anymore or they would call the cops figuring you were burning the place down with your new maserratti.
  • Smellovision, just like the Bugs Bunny cartoon?
  • The problem with this is really simple. You will need to replace the chemicals in this that produce the scents every so often. The other problem is that it will only be able to provide the scents that it has the chemicals for. Of course, I could see game companies including a scent disk with the game and then selling replacement scent disks for close to the same cost as the new game.
  • I remember games having this back in the DOS days. Leather Goddesses of Phobos had that scratch and sniff pad that came in the packaging if I remember right. Also putting this in to some kind of a device would make companies like HP salivate. They're making a killing from printer cartridges already and now the possibility of scent cartridges? They'd be all over that I bet.
  • With visuals, we build everything out of red, green, and blue. With sound, we vibrate speaker cones to get a variety of sounds. Do such basic building blocks exist for smell? Are there base smells which can mix to make a wide variety of smells or will each game be limited to the scents the game-specific carts? Without a universal system in place for smells, I don't see smell ever being a major component in gaming.
  • That's what i want a peripheral that makes my house smell imagine a first person shooter like call of duty on that have your house smell like gunpowder, fear, blood, and shit that sounds pleasant or resident evil rotting corpse smell. Even if it's not an obvious bad idea video game what happens when you get smell cartridges running low, bad programming or a faulty smell thingy what awful smells will it produce then.
  • A friend of mine was on the "highway of Death" in Gulf I. He said the worst part was the stench of burnt decaying bodies. Or the smell of you team members after being in a scenario of two weeks game time without TP or showers. Or the smell of NPCs who lose a morale roll and pee and crap their pants.

    It may make war less glamorous for all the arm chair warriors out there and make peace more attractive.

  • Unlike stuff we see and hear, you can't describe what we smell on a single dimension, and that's why we literally have hundreds or perhaps thousands of different olfactory receptors, while we have only three major types of light receptors on our retinas - and, correspondingly, three different color signals in most color display adapters.

    While this machine promises 20 basic scents, I suspect, even if they were delivered well and integrated into a game seamlessly, you'd grow bored of them quickly.

    I could see

  • I like to shoot, but too much, especially automatic, and the propellant gasses make me want to barf. It's hard to breathe in a cloud of that stuff.

    Plus I've been in a war, saw the dead and burned bodies, and smelled them. It is not pleasant. And in that war game don't forget to add the smell of diesel and body odor from your comrades. Hey, let's add the smell of the burning shit cans under the outhouses if you want to get really realistic.

    I'll keep my FPS scent-free, thank you.

  • The iSmell or iSmell Personal Scent Synthesizer was a computer peripheral device developed by DigiScents in 2001. The prototype connected to a personal computer via USB or serial port and was designed to emit a smell when a user visited a web site or opened an email. The device contained a cartridge with 128 "primary odors," which could be mixed to replicate natural and man-made odors. DigiScents had indexed thousands of common odors, which could be coded, digitized, and embedded into web pages or email.[1]

    In 2006, the iSmell was named one of the "25 Worst Tech Products of All Time" by PC World Magazine, which commented that "[f]ew products literally stink, but this one did--or at least it would have, had it progressed beyond the prototype stage.[2]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ismell [wikipedia.org]

  • Given that the Porn market is generally the driving force behind the adoption of any new computer technology, I shudder to imagine just what the first applications for this will be... I assume they already have the "sushi" smell developed...

Prototype designs always work. -- Don Vonada

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