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Would your favourite game be better if you could smell it? This startup thinks so

HAPTICSOL's Cilia development kit
(Image credit: HAPTICSOL)

We’ve always felt there was something missing from videogames, and it turns out it was smell. After years of having our eyes and ears stimulated to the point of potential nerve damage, it’s clearly time for our noses to have a go. Happily, a Texas startup is here to bring the gift of scent to games both in and out of VR. 

The development kit being offered by HAPTICSOL, as noticed by WCCFtech, is known as the Cilia, and consists of six pots of unknown but presumably smelly oily substances in a 3D-printed holder. The pots pop open at pre-programmed moments, and a fan sends the aroma toward the player’s flared and eager nasal openings. Plugins are available for Unity and Unreal, along with an SDK that could see support from other engines too.

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Rather alarmingly, the HAPTICSOL website boasts of their fragrances being ‘unique’. We’re not sure we want unique smells, we want familiar: the scent of cut grass as we wander through a videogame village, or the whiff of brimstone when facing down a demon prince, perhaps. Unique smells—the delicate fish/elephant redolence of the dumbo octopus while sending tanks to rush an enemy line, or the salt-rich reek of a cyclops’s armpit while reloading a sleek laser weapon—might break the immersion somewhat. The warning not to use the product in a hot room makes us worry too, though we expect its probably something to do with the oil-based medium’s ability to hold on to the scent rather than anything more distressingly biological.

One developer is already on board—there’s a special edition of the kit that pairs MXTReality’s game Adventure Climb VR with the odours of a waterfall, fresh air, rocky plants, Egyptian musk (which Egyptian did they sample that from, we wonder), cappuccino and fresh mint. The final two suggest a charming little coffee shop at the top of the mountain you’ve just climbed, which sounds very civilised.

For those desperate to integrate smell-o-vision into their games, a developer kit will set you back $199.99. Refills, which include a broad range of bouquets including ‘car’, ‘fantasy’, ‘meat’ and ‘stinky’, go for about $5 each.

A brave new frontier in videogame immersion? This isn't the first time we've seen someone integrate stink into our hobby, and that's not just a reference to the Gamescom show floor. Previous ventures have since flown under our radar, but, regardless, this approach is certainly not to be sniffed at.