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Computer Scientists Add Smell to Games

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skunk in the grass

Birmingham University computer scientist Bob Stone is developing artificial smell simulators that could be used to make video games more realistic or by the military to teach soldiers to identify and disable improvised explosive devices.

For example, Stone has developed the scent delivery system (SDS) to make training simulations more realistic. SDS consists of eight sealed chambers, each containing a pot of wax impregnated with a pungent odor. A computer controls air flow over the chambers to release the smell. "Smell is the most underrated sense, but next to vision is the most information-rich one we have," Stone says. He is writing a program for games that will cause SDS to release smells at the right time. For example, during a battle SDS would release the smell of cordite, which is a pungent residue of gunfire, and for close-quarter combat the SDS would release the smell of body odor.

SDS also is being used with sound effects to recreate the kind of environments troops are likely to experience, as well as to help identify post-traumatic stress disorder triggers in returning troops.

Stone is also developing Novint Falcon, a force-feedback control system that gives players the sensation of handling real-life objects. The motors in the controller slow the player's movement when handling something heavy. Stone is using the Novint Falcon as part of a medical training program that challenges surgeons to stabilize a casualty.

From Times Online (UK)
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