👂 👀 🤏 👃 👄 Hearing, seeing, touching, smelling and tasting: Senses in the metaverse
Whether you’re entering into Decentraland through your laptop, putting on your Oculus Rift VR headset to explore Horizon Worlds or using your mobile to augment the world around you via Rift, the visual aspect of the metaverse is critical to your experience. It’s what helps bring the immersion and creativity which many brands are now looking to take advantage of as they build out their metaverse strategies and build in the virtual worlds.
Some virtual worlds are looking to create hyper realistic experiences (and you need look no further for the industry leading examples of technology which can enable this than Unreal Engine: https://80.lv/articles/extremely-realistic-french-street-rendered-in-unreal-engine-5/), some are looking to avoid the uncanny valley with a squidgy form of reality (e.g Decentraland and Roblox) and others have taken the pixelated path with lower res imagery (e.g Sandbox and Minecraft).
Another key part of the visual experience is your avatar — whether made to resemble you or not. You will ‘see’ the virtual world through their eyes (or from a few feet behind their head) and with new technology like Sony’s Mocopi sensors you’ll be able to control the movements and wanderings of your avatar with even greater precision.
When I attended Decentraland’s Metaverse Music Festival back in November last year, as well as collecting as many free wearables as I could, I also teleported between the various stages; hearing a set by Dillion Francis, tuning into Ozzy Ozbournes’ wacky performance and raving to The Stickmen Project’s show. The music was front and centre of this event and whilst all Decentraland festival goers were experiencing it through their desktop or laptop, the collective experience in the virtual world went above and beyond a 2D zoom concert.
However, even outside of a music-event, sounds in the metaverse play a huge part of the experience. Whether it’s the sound of birds chirping to complement the blue sky and signifying that it’s daytime, the rustle of leaves as you walk through a forest to add to the exploration feel, or the ability to voice chat with other virtual world citizens and have a more human interaction.
Sounds enable us to have a richer and more immersive experience within the metaverse since they can make it appear more ‘real’.
Any gamers will be familiar with the buzz of the controller as you strike a penalty, fire a gun or run into a grumpy looking mushroom. This haptic feedback can help create a more immersive experience and provides feedback to the user on their actions in addition to the audio and visual cues.
This technology is already being brought into the metaverse with the handsets of the Oculus VR headset vibrating, however advancements are already being made to level up the haptic experience of virtual worlds. Companies such as bHaptics have already released vests, gloves and full body suits which allow you to ‘feel’ the impact of a virtual bullet or the hug of an avatar. These will only get more impressive and immersive.
Until recently most virtual worlds have focussed on the visual and audio aspects of the experience, with some venturing into touch and the idea that you could smell in the metaverse probably seemed too Willy Wonker-esque for many to even consider.
However with evolution of olfactory technologies like OVR’s wearable scent technology, metaverse explorers may soon be able to add a 4th sense to their experience. This device, the Ion, emits aromas under the user’s nose that can be mixed and matched to create smells that complement the metaverse experience. This could be a woody smell if the user is adventuring through a forest, a sweet smell if they’re passing a bakery or even their own personalised smell which they have sent-matched to their digital home. This type of technology could also have application within metaverse marketing, taking perfume advents to another level.
The metaverse is about to get smelly!
If you thought smelling the metaverse felt futuristic then this could be a 🤯
In 2021 a Japanese professor developed Taste the TV (TTTV), a prototype lickable TV screen that imitates food flavours. Yes, you lick your tv and it tastes of food!
Whilst even CES ’23 had a limited number of taste-based metaverse startups on show, it’s clear that this is another frontier for a richer metaverse experience and I for one am very excited at the opportunity that a 5 sense metaverse experience could bring.