San Francisco, Calif. – Seventy-seven percent of the approximately 590 million COVID-19 patients across the globe experience smell loss. Sadly, up to 10 percent continue having issues with smell dysfunction after their recovery, causing unexpected challenges and even danger to those who suffer. One award-winning AR/VR designer is on a mission to raise awareness about this invisible disability through her latest multisensory VR experience: “Living with Smell Dysfunction,” which is being showcased at SIGGRAPH 2022, August 8-11 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
“Living with Smell Dysfunction,” which is attracting a lot of attention and excitement at SIGGRAPH, is an immersive multi-sensory VR experience. Created by cutting-edge designer, Yuting Wang, the film explores everyday struggles for those with smell dysfunction. Through this first-person immersive film, participants are introduced to scents through the VR experience and then face daily adventure, confusion and danger as a patient with this condition. The film simulates a variety of olfactory disorders including anosmia (absence of smell), hyposmia (diminished sensitivity of smell), and dyssomnia (distortion of normal smell). Olfactory dysfunction is a disability that tends to be overlooked by most people. This novel immersive experience shows participants how difficult, frustrating and even dangerous the experience can be.
Wang is the innovative project director and founder of BroadAR, an AR/VR studio based in San Francisco. During the recent pandemic, Wang witnessed friends and family suffering from loss of smell caused by COVID-19. She was surprised to learn that there was a lack of understanding and effective treatments for this condition and set out to raise awareness.
The dangers of smell disorder are significant. The film was, in part, inspired by the story of a family in Texas whose toddler alerted his family to a fire in the home in the middle of the night. The parents, both suffering from COVID-19 related loss of smell, never smelled the smoke. While they lost everything they owned in the fire, their child saved the lives of everyone in their family of seven that night. Other dangers of smell dysfunction include being unable to smell gas leaks, toxic fumes or even moldy or rancid food.
Wang, who works with cutting-edge technologies in the AR/VR field and who has invented many creative AR/VR apps and content, knew that VR would be the perfect medium for this topic. “Until someone actually experiences what it’s like to not have your sense of smell or taste, it’s impossible to grasp what an enormous impact it can have,” Wang explains. “In this film, participants will, through VR, learn what it’s like to not be able to smell. It’s a profound experience that will change people’s viewpoints and hopefully lead to more effective therapies and understanding.”
Wang hopes the film raises awareness and understanding of this condition as well as paves the way for VR as a platform for more effective therapy and recovery for those who are experiencing smell disorder.
For more information about the film, visit: https://www.smellrevived.com/multisensory-film
About Yuting “Kathy” Wang
Kathy Wang is an award-winning AR/VR designer from UC Berkeley. She is a four-time-winner of MIT AR/VR Hackathon and MIT Hacking Arts. She focuses on finding HCI design solutions for emerging technologies such as AR, VR and MR. She is skilled in AR/VR design, 3D modeling, Rendering, 3D animation, Graphic Design, Packaging Design, Industrial Design, UI/UX, User research, Motion graphics, Prototyping, and Video production. She is fascinated by the future of technology and its potential to do good in the world and uses her work to explore the boundaries of reality and the virtual world. Learn more about Kathy and her latest projects here.