The smells and tastes of a great video game


The smells and tastes of a great video game
By: Andrew Marino Posted: May 20, 2024

The smells and tastes of a great video game
Image: Samar Haddad / The Verge

As video games and movies become more immersive, it may start to become apparent what sensations are missing in the experience. Is there a point in Gran Turismo that you wish you could smell the burning rubber and engine exhaust? Would an experience playing beer pong in Horizon Worlds not be complete unless you could taste the hops?

On this episode of The Vergecast, the latest in our miniseries about the five senses of video games, we’re tackling the topics of smell and taste in video games — and whether either could actually enhance the virtual experience for gamers. In other words: Smellovision is back for a new generation of media.

First, we try out a product (actually available to buy today) called the GameScent, an AI-powered scent machine that syncs with your gaming and movie-watching experience. The GameScent works by listening in on the sound design of the content you’re playing or watching and deploying GameScent-approved fragrances that accompany those sounds. We tried the GameScent with games like Mario Kart and Animal Crossing to see if this is really hinting at a scent-infused gaming future.

On the taste side, we speak to Nimesha Ranasinghe, an assistant professor at the University of Maine working on taste sensations and taste simulation in virtual reality experiences. Ranasinghe walks us through his research on sending electrical pulses to your tongue to manipulate different taste sensations like salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. He also talks about how his research led to experimental gadgets like a “virtual cocktail,” which would allow you to send curated tasting and drinking experiences through digital signals.

If you want to know more about the world of smelling and tasting digital content, here are some links to get you started:

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