Tainted: Smell the Virtual Ghost

(Joint project with ITE College Central)


“Tainted” is a first-person 3D adventure game that enables players to experience a traditional horror folklore using visual-auditory-olfactory interactions. The system consists of a computer to play the game and a smell-emitting module that contains different scents. The olfactory information provided by the added modality of smell delivers an immersive gaming experience by enabling players to sense predefined game conditions (e.g. imminent threat, game hints), receiving game narrative information, and invoking intended emotional responses (e.g. fear, curiosity). Four scents (jasmine, pineapple, mango and banana) are explicitly used to uncover and guide the plot in the horror-themed survivor game involving a Southeast Asian folklore character (ghost), the “Pontianak”.

In Tainted, the olfactory information seems closely coupled with the players’ experience and enjoyment of the narrative as well as the smell-driven gameplay. Although, there are existing technologies that examine olfactory displays and games, almost all of these systems use smell as a feedback mechanism only. However, in our approach the story or the plot itself is driven by the smells, thus creating a seamless integration between the storyline and the multisensory feedback channels. Also, numerous studies suggest a close relationship between emotions and olfaction - smells may modulate behavior, mood, and cognition. Similarly, in Tainted, the banana smell may actuate fearfulness since it is associated with the ghost in the story. Thus, it enables the delivery of not-time sensitive olfactory cues to the player in a unique manner.

Contact Person

Dr. Nimesha Ranasinghe