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University of Birmingham Engineers Develop Scent-Enhanced Games

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK are developing a "smell effect" peripheral for use in serious game applications. The product will provide enhanced realism for military training simulations.
Develop Magazine reports that researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK are developing a "smell effect" peripheral for use in serious game applications. The product will provide enhanced realism for military training simulations. The peripheral uses a series of pots filled with aromatic paraffin wax to produce a wide variety of scents. With the pots attached to a PC, appropriate scents travel toward the player's nose via a boxed fan when triggered by in-game events. Custom game applications that use the scent delivery system are built using game engines previously featured in retail PC titles like Half-Life and Far Cry. Develop spoke to one of the project's testers, former Royal Navy sailor Mark Blyth. "The smell is activated when the virtual soldier walks past something like a market or a tiny side street, and the computer triggers the scent," Blyth said. "What we are trying to discover is if smell enhances a person’s perception." Blyth continues: "It's a way of capturing feelings. Sometimes people have a sense that something is wrong, but we have to find out how they know that. Is it smell? Is it someone running through the marketplace? Is it the silence? If smell is one of the main factors then there is a lot of scope for this to be used to help train soldiers' noses." Though the scent peripheral is currently being tested for use in training applications, researchers estimate that a consumer version could cost as little as $25, and may one day be practical for use in traditional video games.

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