I just smelled the AI future of video games — and it’s very weird

GameScent
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Have you ever wondered what your favorite game worlds smell like? Even if you haven’t, a company called GameScent is about to give you an answer with its eponymously named device. If GameScent sounds like Smell-O-Vision for video games, that’s because it kind of is … only utilizing modern technology.

GameScent utilizes AI to automatically release scents that correspond with gameplay. The machine’s adapter captures audio in real-time which the AI then processes to release specific scents with the on-screen action. Said aromas are meant to invoke the scents of battle, speeding cars, forest fragrances and even fresh rain. GameScent is compatible with many devices, including home consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X and the best gaming PCs.

I went nose-on with GameScent at a recent press event and found it … intriguing, to say the least. While this product could reek (pun intended) of being gimmicky, the idea behind it makes sense. After all, smells can imprint long-term memories better than some of your other senses. Theoretically, this could help games feel more immersive. On the other hand, it could be distracting to have random scents released as you play games.

Is GameScent the future of gaming or another Smell-O-Vision in the making? Here’s how the device works and what I think of it.

GameScent: How it works 

GameScent

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Let’s dive a little deeper into how GameScent actually works.

GameScent uses swappable cartridges that correspond to different scents. This includes: Gun Fire, Explosion, Racing, Storm and Forest. There’s also a cartridge called “Clean Air” that instantly neutralizes any scents in the room. The scents are meant to “keep the sensory adventure going,” according to the company. Scents like Blood, Ocean, Sports Arena and Fresh Cut Grass will arrive in the future. Yes, I said blood. 

GameScent: was $179 now $149 @ Amazon

GameScent: <a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=45724&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FGamescent-Automatically-Explosions-Compatible-Platforms%2Fdp%2FB0CNMXSN2K%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">was $179 now $149 @ Amazon
GameScent is a unique device that releases scents based on the actions happening in a video game. It comes with 6 scent cartridges including: Gun Fire, Racing, Storm and Forest. GameScent is compatible with home consoles and PC.

Hardware-wise, there’s a medium-sized box containing the aforementioned cartridges and a tiny adapter featuring an HDMI port and a 3.5mm headphone jack to connect to your gaming device. The adapter uses Wi-Fi to connect to the cloud-based AI, so you’ll need an internet connection to use GameScent. The box holding the cartridges connects via USB-C to draw power. During my demo, it was connected to a portable USB-C power bank. You’re free to use any 5W charger you might have lying around.

GameScent: In action 

GameScent

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A GameScent PR rep played Far Cry 6 to demo the device during the event. This was a wise choice since that game’s open-world environment is conducive to the scents the machine can release. If you’re wondering, the rep played on an Xbox Series S, though the device is compatible with any gaming device.

I’m no scent expert, but to my untrained nose, the Forest scent released during Far Cry 6 evoked the earthy smells of nature.

As the rep made their way through the forest, that associated scent was released. I’m no scent expert, but to my untrained nose, the Forest scent evoked the earthy smells of nature. The smell itself wasn’t overpowering, but it was noticeable.

Things got more interesting during combat. Gunfire released a sharp scent that’s meant to evoke the smell of gunpowder. I haven’t smelled gunfire since I was a kid, so I’m going to take GameScent’s word that this is what gunfire smells like. The same is true for Explosion, which I equate to feeling like you’re in a smoky room. I wouldn’t say the latter actually smelled like smoke, but it conjured that olfactory sensation.

GameScent

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After the session, the GameScent rep triggered the “Clean Air” scent to neutralize any lingering odors. While it helped dull the scents, it didn’t completely negate them. But in fairness, the GameScent folks had been demoing the device all day in a small-ish hotel room. At worst, your gaming room might retain the smell of a strange (but inoffensive) perfume after prolonged sessions.

In case you’re wondering, the scents do not negate one another. So if you’re in an intense battle with gunfire and explosions, you’ll recognize both scents. I noticed a one to two-second delay between on-screen actions and scent releases. That's because the device has to send a signal to the cloud so it can produce the correct scent. Other than that, I think it did a good job of handling simultaneous and consecutive scents.

GameScent: Does it pass the smell test? 

GameScent

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

A part of me wants to dismiss GameScent as a gimmick akin to 3D, but I also can’t help but respect the intention behind this device. With graphics and performance seemingly plateauing, and VR gaming still trying to find its place, why not utilize scents to make gaming more immersive? Again, the idea is wild (and evocative of Smell-O-Vision), but I totally understand it.

Would I buy a GameScent for myself? Probably not, but that’s not to say future iterations might not win me over. It’ll be interesting to see if this quirky device gains widespread acceptance from gamers, or if it’ll be written off for being too weird. Time will tell, but for now GameScent is by far one of the most intriguing gaming devices I’ve tested in years.

GameScent is available now for $179 at GameStop, Best Buy and Walmart. At time of writing, it’s available for $149 at Amazon. If you’re in Boston for PAX East (Mar 21 - 24), make sure to visit GameScent’s booth to see if it passes the smell test.

More from Tom's Guide

Category
Arrow
Arrow
Back to Game Consoles
Brand
Arrow
Colour
Arrow
Condition
Arrow
Price
Arrow
Any Price
Showing 10 of 72 deals
Filters
Arrow
Load more deals
Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.