Virtual reality video games can truly come to life with scents designed to match the action, according to a new study.
In experiments, volunteers played the virtual reality (VR) game Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, with and without smells that supplemented parts of the game.
Survival horror game scenes feature intense smelling objects such as rotting food, smoke, and a rotting head.
The researchers found that adding scents significantly increased the sense of being present in the game environment.
Screenshot from Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, a virtual reality game featuring intense smelling objects such as rotting food, smoke, and a rotting head
In Resident Evil 7 Biohazard, the player controls Ethan Winters from a first-person perspective as he searches an abandoned estate for his missing wife.
RESIDENT EVIL 7 BIOHAZARD
Resident Evil 7 Biohazard is a virtual reality (VR) game developed by Capcom and released in 2017 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and more.
The survival horror game, which supports the PlayStation VR headset, is the first mainline Resident Evil game to use a first-person view.
The player controls Ethan Winters in first person as he searches for his missing wife in an estate occupied by an infected family.
The new study was conducted by researchers from the Australian government agency CSIRO and the University of Technology Sydney.
“Virtual reality (VR) headsets provide immersive audio-visual experiences for users, but typically fail to deliver olfactory cues that can provide additional information about our real-world surroundings,” they state in their paper.
“Overall, the results indicate that adding odors to a VR environment had a significant effect on the psychological and physiological experience, showing that adding odors improved the VR environment.”
For the study, the researchers recruited 22 subjects who explored the same VR environment from Resident Evil 7.
A total of 13 of the participants had previous experience with virtual reality and only three participants had no video game experience. Only one participant had previously played Resident Evil 7.
As they played, the game was supplemented with odors generated by an olfactometer, which delivered volatile odors through a flexible plastic tube secured under a participant’s nose.
Zone 1: participant briefing and post-gameplay questionnaires, Zone 2: the gameplay zone, Zone 3: the olfactometer, and Zone 4: the monitoring/supervision zone.
FEEL IN VIRTUAL REALITY
Smells were touted as the next frontier for an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience.
OVR Technology, a Burlington, Vermont-based startup, is working on scent technology for virtual reality.
It is a developed material that releases fragrance nanoparticles, tuned to activate in millisecond increments, from replaceable cartridges.
The company says, “Every time we breathe, we inhale billions of tiny fragrance particles that contain important information.
“The power of smell lies in its direct link to our limbic system, the area of our brain responsible for memory and emotions, and the part that influences our unconscious behaviors and motivations.”
One of the volatiles was cis-3-hexene-1-ol, an oily liquid that smells of freshly cut grass, to enhance the feeling of being in a forest.
Another was dimethyl trisulfide, a breakdown product of bacterial decay, including the early stages of human decay.
Participants walked through the same VR environment twice, with or without the introduction of olfactory stimuli.
Directly after each gameplay, participants completed a questionnaire to determine their “sense of presence” (feeling of being in a particular place or time period) from the overall gameplay, as well as their sense of immersion in each of the scenes.
In addition, physiological measurements – heart rate, body temperature, and skin electrodermal activity – were collected from half of the participants for each game. “Electrodermal activity” refers to changes in skin resistance to a small electric current based on sweat gland activity.
The results showed that the addition of odors significantly increased participants’ sense of spatial presence in the VR environment compared to VR without odor.
Participants also rated the realism of the VR experience with higher odor versus no odor; however, the smell did not lead to a change in the emotional state of the participants (arousal, pleasure and dominance).
The survival horror game, which supports the PlayStation VR headset, is the first mainline Resident Evil game to use a first-person view
Additionally, participants’ physiological responses were affected by the addition of odor.
The team says scents provide an opportunity to “create a more immersive experience to increase a person’s presence in a VR environment.”
“In addition to games, the results have broader applications for virtual training environments and virtual reality exposure therapy,” they write.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.
HAUNTED HOUSES ARE EVEN SCIER WITH FRIENDS, STUDY SUGGESTS
Haunted houses are scarier when you visit them with other people, according to a 2022 study.
Researchers have found that adult visitors to haunted houses are more likely to experience fear responses, including dilated pupils, sweating and rapid heartbeat when attending in groups.
It is believed that within a group, fear can spread like wildfire to a threat, like a herd of wildebeest being preyed upon by a lion in the wild.
Visitors were tested to their limits at 17th Door Haunted House, an extreme attraction that tests “fight or flight” responses in Fullerton, California.
As the name suggests, the house consists of 17 rooms with various threats that form an uninterrupted experience, tied to a theme about a dangerous prisoner in a fictional prison.
During the 30-minute experience, visitors are faced with situations that mimic the threat of choking, the inability to escape a speeding car, and being shot by a volley of pellets. a firing squad while blindfolded.
One YouTuber describes it as an “extremely graphic and painful haunted house”, while a Yelp reviewer said, “It gets very scary at the end, and they literally convinced my fiancée that she was going to die.”
Read more: Haunted houses are even SCARY with friends, study finds