People often joke about watching TV with "Smell-O-Vision," like you can smell commercials for air fresheners, or smell what a chef is baking on a cooking show. A few virtual reality companies make that possible — for real.
Imagine going to a movie and experiencing it with almost all of your senses. That's the idea behind Positron's Voyager Motion chairs.
"360-degree rotation, as well as pitch back and forth. It also has haptic feedback, spatial track 3D audio, and now we just started integrating scent,” Positron CEO Jeffrey Travis said. The Voyager Motion chairs look like pods that contain a white box that emits the smell of what you're seeing. Now playing in virtual reality theaters in five cities.
It’s part of a growing number of technologies to make virtual reality cool enough for non-gamers. There are virtual reality shoes, contraptions where the person lies down on a table with the full motion that makes it feel like you're flying and seats that put you behind the wheel of a race car.
Virtual reality rides to feel like you're on rollercoasters and rocket ships.
Virtual reality body suits that give live haptic feedback. The Tesla suits look like something out of "Ready Player One" and are used not just for gaming but work. One man demoing the Tesla suit was working on repairs aboard a space station.
For gamers playing at home the BHaptic vest has sensors around the chest and shoulders and comes with straps for the wrist. The vests vibrate and pulse to make it feel like you're being hit, or when you're shooting a gun.
To smell things in virtual reality on home VR headsets there's OVR. It's a device that lets you smell what you're seeing. I tried it at CES this year and visited a campsite where I smelled not only the fire, but the marshmallow I was roasting.
"Your distance from objects changes. The intensity of that changes," explained OVR Technologies CEO Aaron Wisniewski. "As you bring it to your nose, the smell starts to trigger here and get more and more intense as you bring it closer to your nose."
It felt, or smelled incredibly real. What's been holding VR back from gaining widespread interest is that sight and sound aren't enough to totally immerse you in the experience. While taste may be difficult, tech companies are successfully triggering the other 6 senses.
"By bringing in scent and adding that immersion and that depth and that emotion into it, instead of being a spectator in the digital world, you become the main character," Wisniewski said.
Why is this important to attract non-gamers to the VR platforms? Imagine using all of these technologies for self-care. Need to meditate or relax on a beach for a few minutes each day? It's now possible to not only see and hear the ocean but to smell it.
The technology is here and soon it may be in a living room near you.