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What are you looking at? You're looking at a new innovation in the gaming industry. Or rather: Smelling a new innovation.

Immersing consumers further into media today is the trend: With the likes of 3D movies releasing in theaters, 3D televisions being sold, and 3D gaming on the rise, especially with the launch of the new Nintendo 3DS this past Sunday, it's clear that the entertainment industry wants you to feel like you're in their world. 

But where do we go from here? What's the next step in total immersion? Sony thinks they've found an answer: Stimulating your sense of smell.

Click here to read more about this incredible new innovation!

I was able to attend the Game Developer's Conference earlier this month to see what developers around the world are up to. Sony invited me to check out their next innovation in immersing the player, and it's this little black box that you see above. There's no offiical name for it yet, but they're calling it codename "Amoy", and Free Realms will be the flaghship title to introduce this technology to the world.

"It actually smells really good!" Sony engineer Nathan Asal chuckled "We can make it pump out really nice scents, and really wretched smells if we wanted. It has a good range of smells to emulate."

How does it work? Nathan explains "It works much like a printer: You fill it with cartridges that just has 4 colors of ink; Cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Even though it's just 4 colors, they are mixed together to create different colors and make up any image you want on paper." "The Amoy does the same thing," Nasal goes on, "but instead of ink on paper, we have cartridges of different oils that discharge into the air to simulate almost any kind of scent imaginable." He continues "While plugged into a PC, or in this case, a PS3, we can program a game to release a certain smell to really engage the player. It's no different from how game developers can make a controller rumble at the right time: We want to make you feel like you're really a part of the experience."


Burn Rubber... And Smell It Too!

But why Free Realms? SOE project manager Francis Art tells us "We already have this great vast realm of different kinds of experiences, and letting players smell the world around them just makes sense. From smelling the food you cook while being a chef to having the scent of rubber burn while hitting the tracks in your kart: It was a no-brainer to showcase the Amoy on Free Realms." Art goes further to say "We also really wanted to premiere this technology to a wide audience, and being that there's millions of players for the game on both PC and PS3, this was just the best game to reach many people with."

While aiming for a big crowd to with the Amoy is a great start, we couldn't help but think that it was a no-brainer to make Free Realms in 3D. We asked why they didn't go that way for the game. "Sony has been a leader in the 3D industry" replied Art, "We are the only company to produce 3D movies, 3D video games, 3D televisions, and 3D cameras, all under one roof. We have already established ourselves on the 3D turf, so we wanted to venture into new unexplored territory."
"That, and we currently don't have resources to do that." Art added.

However, this isn't completely new territory, as there were two other companies at GDC showing off their 'olfacotry peripherals', including Sensory Acumen's GameSkunk and Scent Sciences' ScentScape. That doesn't stop Sony from still smelling success, being that they both have the hardware and software to make them a worthy contender.

While playing the demo they had, I was able to enjoy the scent of sweet fresh pastries when the player was around cakes, smell honey around the Bixie hives, and bask in the fresh flowers in Merry Vale. On the other side of the spectrum, Blackspore smelt dingy and made the entire atmosphere even more uninviting. You may even dislike Sal Monella and other Robgoblins even more so when you get to actually smell how they are. 

Again, this technology and it's implementation to the game is still in it's early stages, so it's still far from ready to hit consumer's homes. Asal told me an anecdote that happened back at the offices: "We had a little mishaph once and the device just kept releasing an unintended stench. We quickly unplugged it, but it was a little too late: The offices smelled like rotten eggs for a week after that incident. We couldn't eat in there since!"

The technology is certainly impressive and left a good impression on me (as well as some lingering odors). Project "Amoy" still has no official release date or price, but will launch for both PC and PS3 (sorry Mac!) for Free Realms, with more Sony games to support it in the future. Expect to smell more about it at this year's E3 Expo!

 

Want to try Codename Amoy and give it a sniff? Sony is touring the technology out to certain events around the country, so if you want to check out when and where you can see (and smell) it being shown off, take out your smart phone and scan the QR Code below for the info!

Are you looking forward to smelling Free Realms?

 

Edit: you caught us! April Fools everyone!

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