Photo/IllutrationVAQSO Inc.'s VAQSO VR, a VR headset that offers the sense of smell in a virtual reality experience. (Provided by VAQSO Inc.)

Evolving virtual reality technologies are offering experiences ever closer to the real thing, with devices going beyond sight and sound to include smell and touch aspects to provide more immersive experiences.

VAQSO Inc.’s VAQSO VR, which is currently under development, is a small device that can be attached to different types of VR headsets.

Measuring 120 millimeters in length, 35 mm in width and 15 mm in height, it has built-in cartridges from which several components of scent can be released.

The device takes users to the new frontiers of VR. For example, the closer the wearer gets to a computer graphic image cup of coffee, the stronger the aroma of coffee becomes.

Currently, a VR device is typically a huge goggles-style headset called a head-mounted display (HMD), which provides an audio-visual experience.

Since the majority of an HMD’s visual field is filled with images, wearers can attain an immersive experience.

Many HMDs offer premium audio quality, too, with systems generating sound as if coming from a specific object depicted in a CG image, for instance, while the wearer looks at it.

For example, if a cat meows in a computer graphic image, the HMD wearer feels as if the sound is coming from the spot where they see the cat.

Some everyday devices are also utilizing virtual touch technologies, such as the latest iPhone and iPhone Plus models.

Haptic technology used in the gadgets’ home buttons adds a convincing synthesis of touch.

When the devices are turned off, the buttons’ texture disappears, as the device only provides the feeling of pushing the button by generating subtle vibrations.

VR devices that give users the sense of touch may have been turned into a commercial reality, but whether the use of this mechanism can spread far and wide remains to be seen.

Actually feeling the texture of objects or other people that a user touches in a virtual reality space certainly enhances the feeling of immersion in an experience.

For now, such techniques have not been perfected, but recent progress in VR technologies means improvements are in reach.

However, if current trends continue, in 10 years’ time it may be commonplace to feel substantial textures of objects seen in virtual reality by touching, smelling, and even tasting them.