March 27, 2017

Researchers want to make virtual reality even more immersive by incorporating scent into the experience. They are testing the interactions we have in VR by incorporating smells, as well as touch.

At Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, researchers are working on ways to bring smell and touch into the VR experience, while influencing perception. The experience of smelling delicious food while in a virtual environment can have different effects on the user.

The experiments were done with the recipient viewing a doughnut through the VR headset, smelling a chocolate scent and holding a foam doughnut in their hands. Using all three senses at the same time resulted in  participants craving a taste of the sweet treat. After the headset was removed, a real doughnut was offered to participants, helping researchers learn if people who see, touch and smell a doughnut have a greater appetite for one.

Other than getting stomachs rumbling, there are some possible practical uses for these types of VR experiences. If a food is no longer available, such as a fish that has gone extinct, a virtual piece of fish could allow people to experience that flavor profile. It could also help with dieting, with a user viewing and smelling a fattening food while actually eating something healthy. The studies continue to discover the relationships between food odors and our minds while in a VR environment.


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