While under normal circumstances, asking a question like that is a quick way to wind up under prolonged psychiatric examination, when CES comes around, there are few questions not worth asking. SensoryAcumen is making a very unusual case for that exact question with the planned release of the GameSkunk.
GameSkunk is, essentially, a device that will allow users to actually smell the games they play. GameSkunk has access to over 30,000 different scents, created as needed by a series of scent cartridges, which are subsequently deployed according to what's going on in the game. The cartridges are connected to a compressor, which distributes the smells as they come into play in a game. Early possibilities include onions, grass, and smoke, among others, and the whole affair can connect either via USB port or by wireless connection
While game makers aren't yet sold on the idea of smells in games--something that Sensory Acumen is already working hard to turn around--there are those who have a great interest in what Sensory Acumen is putting up. Specifically, psychologists at the University of Southern California, who are using Sensory Acumen's technology as part of their treatment regimen for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
patients. Smell is a powerful memory trigger, and as such, provides help in confronting unpleasant memories. Retailers are also showing an interest, as are carmakers, wanting certain smells sent in certain directions.
The newest version is currently exhibiting at the CES event, and by all reports, CES is a terrible place to exhibit a smell-based product, because when you've got that many people in that small a space, trying to track down one scent of coffee isn't exactly an easy feat.
While there would be some appeal in having smells in gaming--the smell of walking through a pine forest would really up the immersion factor in terms of gameplay--there would be some places where it wouldn't be near as desirable. The Saw line of games, for example, would be terrible. Does anyone really want to smell the battlefield carnage of, well, Battlefield 3? Or Call of Duty: Black Ops
2? The idea of such a feature in Conker's Bad Fur Day would be downright disastrous.
Still though, this is a product with some very impressive applications, and some even more impressive potential applications. Sensory Acumen is out to get the GameSkunk released around mid-2013, so it will certainly be interesting to see how it fares.