They invent the olfactometer, an innovative (open source) device for detecting odors in video games.

All video game lovers are familiar with a VR headset that allows you to fully immerse yourself in a video game… Actually, it’s impressive, but there is no smell in it! It is the pocket olfactometer that Stockholm University has just invented. Plans and code are also available for free online; it’s called Nosewise and promises to bring the sense of smell to VR games. Adding flavors to movies or TV shows is a challenge that researchers around the world would like to tackle. And so the Swedish scientists would find a way to create such a system for VR games. A way to also help people who have lost their sense of smell after a long illness like COVID? Opening!

What is this invention?

A research team led by Professor Jonas Olofsson from Stockholm University has developed a 3D printed prototype called the Nosewise Handheld Olfactometer. They also collaborated with a group of researchers from the University of Malmö. In its current design, the tool mounts under a commercially available HTC Vive handheld gamepad. It consists of four containers of odorous products, oriented vertically. Each tank contains a liquid with a different smell, absorbed into a kind of sponge. Each is also sealed with two progressive valves, one at the top and one at the bottom.

The Nosewise handheld olfactometer uses the hole already in the HTC Vive controller. Photo courtesy of Stockholm University.

How does nosewise work?

When the two valves are closed, the spirits cannot exit the case. When the user activates the olfactometer, the valves open in a selectable degree of opening. A small fan built into the system then draws in air from below so that it crosses the sponge and then exhausts it, saturated with odor, through a small tube common to four reservoirs. The combined scents are then released into the room where the player or patient is located. By mixing different scents, you can also get different offers… But that’s not all! The box can also be connected to the game’s computer, which detects which scents are released at which points in the game, so it can be activated manually or automatically, depending on the game or therapy tool it’s connected to.

Pattern created for this occasion

The researchers presented a game scenario in which the player is in a virtual wine cellar. The idea was to take glasses at random and try to identify the selected wine from the aromas emitted by the gamepad. This invention could provide even more immersion in video games, but could also be of interest for olfactory rehabilitation… to know that some diseases, such like Covid, cause loss of taste and smell in affected patients, and that these symptoms can sometimes persist for a very long time… Using an olfactometer at home can be a therapeutic tool to restore the sense of smell. . The device code and games are freely available on the Internet for anyone interested in using and developing the system. The total cost of materials for the prototype is about $150, the researchers said.

Stockholm University

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