Touch, smell and feel before you buy with Project Sense
By Paul Ridden
December 30, 2009
The Sense concept designed by CD&I; Associates is a wireless device that will, it's claimed, offer a "more emotional connection between users and experiences" through touch and smell. It aims to give users haptic, thermal and olfactory sensations while playing games, watching movies and shopping online via a tactile hand sheath and flavor-ink printed output.
Its creators, CD&I; Associates, ask that we imagine a future where experiences like shopping, gaming and watching media are enhanced by a wireless sensory aid - allowing us to smell, taste or touch virtually represented items on a computer or TV screen.
The Sense concept is CD&I; Associates' contribution to the 13 visions of the future for the French Alliance's La Fin Du Design exhibition. It is proposed that the device incorporates a tactile, heated sheath in which the user places a hand. The system would then stimulate nerve receptors in the hand to recreate the pressure, temperature, roughness, softness, or hardness properties of an object being viewed on a device with which Sense has been wirelessly linked. The system might also be used to help the blind read on-screen text by converting it into braille and feeding it to the user via the sheath or converting it to speech and output through onboard speakers.
Sense will also feature six flavor cartridges which will mimic basic flavor types such as bitterness, sweetness, saltiness and so on. It's proposed that seven additional wax cartridges will feature micro emanators to reproduce different types of smell. Responding to device input, cartridges are suitably mixed and a small object-oriented taste and smell sheet is then printed. This not only magnifies and expels carefully mixed scent but when placed on the roof of the mouth will dissolve and release an appropriate taste sensation.
Touchscreen technology will complement any information given on the display of a linked device and allow the user control over Sense's functionality. CD&I; Associates also sees new sensory applications being made available for download to update and improve the usefulness of the product. Of course, being a concept, actual technical details are scant but it will no doubt take full advantage of whatever technical advances have been made by the time any talk of production has begun.
At first glance it may be tempting just to dismiss CD&I; Associates' vision of sensory interaction with virtual objects as being beyond the reach of current technology but if such things as machines powered by bacteria or the 3D bio printer Gizmag featured recently were proposed only a few years ago, would it be fair to say that utter disbelief would be high among the reactions on offer? One to watch, perhaps?