High school project Smell-O-Vision adds scents to VR

[From CANOE]

[Image: Ashley Brown works on her science project Tuesday at the University of Alberta. (Perry Mah, QMI Agency)]

Computer program makes scents


EDMONTON – Ashley Brown is hoping to change the world — one smell at a time.

Born and raised in Elnora, a village about 70 km southeast of Red Deer, Brown, 17, never thought she’d be part of a team working on a project that could help improve rehabilitation, education, research and even gaming.

It’s called Smell-O-Vision, and it’s a virtual reality computer program — which Brown built herself — that uses scents to make the virtual reality experience more realistic.

“It’s (primarily) used for rehabilitation,” Brown said. “If we can add scents to increase realism, it can potentially speed up the rehabilitation process.”

It could even save lives.

“People who have smell blindness, which is where they cannot smell a certain scent, if they are repeatedly given the scent, they can train themselves to it,” she explains. 

“So, for example, people who can’t smell smoke, if they are given the scent, they can learn it and it helps potentially to save their life in a case of a fire.”

Brown is one of 60 high school students from across Alberta who spent six weeks of the summer working on projects at the University of Alberta.

It’s part of the Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) summer camp program, which wrapped up Tuesday.

“It’s a great way to spend the summer,” said Gauri Chaggar, 17, .

The researchers students worked with throughout the camp will continue with the projects even now that the camp is over.

The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital is currently in the process of installing a virtual reality environment to be used for rehabilitation, a system in which Brown’s Smell- O-Vision, when perfected, could be implemented.

The computer-saavy student is headed into her final year of high school but is eager to get back to the U of A.

“I’m looking into going into computer sciences,” Brown said.

“I can’t believe I can do something with this much potential.”

This is the 26th summer camp put on through WISEST. The program is meant to encourage women to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.

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