Electric Currents Could Add Smells to Virtual Reality

Researchers shot currents that evoked 10 virtual odors, including fruity, woody and minty, into participants' nostrils.

Researchers at the Imagineering Institute in Malaysia are working on technology that would enable people to text scents.

The researchers recently tested the "electric smell," which conveys odor by stimulating the subject's olfactory receptors.

The work is part of an effort to create more realistic virtual reality. For example, instead of chatting or texting with a friend, you could enjoy a dinner in VR and not only share the sights, but the smells as well.

In the experiments, the researchers shot electrical currents above and behind the nostrils to evoke 10 virtual odors, including fruity, woody and minty.

The researchers can't yet control the odor that people experience — and they admit that no matter what the subjects are able to experience, people might be apprehensive to shoving wires up their noses.

The work is preliminary, but could lead to advancements that restore the sense of smell for people who have lost it due to medical complications, as well as future devices that deliver the capability without going up your nose.

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