It has been known for some time that over or under responsivity to sensory stimulation encountered in everyday life, such as noise, light and smell, can be a cause of anxiety and stress [e.g. Lipowski, 1975]. Most virtual reality systems provide visual and audio stimuli through headsets and tactile stimuli can be provided through haptic devices; however, that leaves two senses under stimulated: smell and taste. So, researchers have been exploring how to extend virtual reality to include smell and taste in order to give a complete sensory experience and thus reduce the level of stress and anxiety that many people feel when using immersive reality systems. This had led to digital scent technology that allows smells to be transmitted electronically [e.g. Isokoski et al, 2020]. So, it’s time to update your preferred communication tool to one that allows you to smell that fresh cup of coffee your colleague has just brewed before joining the meeting from their home-office. Of course, if they have not taken a shower recently then you might want to ‘mute’ the smell function! These advances in technology have led a spin-out company, Day91, to start work on gustatory technology that modifies the water in your glass to simulate the after-work drink that your team-mate is enjoying during your virtual get-together online.
Lipowski, Z. J. (1975). Sensory and information inputs overload: Behavioural effects. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 16(3), 199–221.
Isokoski, P., Salminen, K., Müller, P., Rantala, J., Nieminen, V., Karjalainen, M., Väliaho, J., Kontunen, A., Savia, M., Leivo, J. and Telembeci, A., (2020). Transferring scents over a communication network. In Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Academic Mindtrek (pp. 126-133).