'Eden' - An Olfactory Virtual Reality Experience Coming to South End Art Hop

Eden, an olfactory VPR experience.

Champlain College's Emergent Media Center (EMC) will showcase the combination of virtual reality (VR)  that blends what you are seeing with environmental smells at the 25th Annual South End Art Hop on Friday, Sept. 8 on Pine Street.

The Olfactory VR Project is an experiment with using smell in virtual reality that the EMC has been working on for the past six months in collaboration with two local Burlington businesses - Alice & the Magician, an innovative Flavor & Fragrance company and Matt & Erik Design, a multidisciplinary industrial design and design development company. They have also worked in conjunction with David Stiller, a local businessman and 2012 graduate of Champlain's MFA in Emergent Media program.

The student creators of the experience, dubbed "Eden," say their new system of introducing environmental scents is not a game, but rather a full-sensory environment to explore.  "In our Olfactory VR experience, players begin in a rainy alleyway and make their way forward to a door that leads into a sleek cocktail bar. Inside the bar, players are able to interact with objects and discover different scents," explained lead interactive designer, student Steven Margolin ('18 Game Design).

Users will encounter a virtual bar where plants and empty glasses abound, but there is no human presence other than leftover cigars, lipstick containers, jackets, and purses. What happened here? It's the player's job to explore and find out, Margolin explained. "A video trailer of what the VR experience looks like can be seen at  http://bit.ly/EMCEden, to experience the full effect, you will need to visit the EMC's booth at Art Hop on Friday night, adjacent to ArtsRiot and the SEABA offices and gallery on Pine Street," Margolin said.   

The importance of this next-step in the virtual reality world is highlighted by some scientific facts about the sense of smell:

  • Smell is the strongest sense associated with memory.
  • Smell can give you strong emotional reactions.
  • A smell has no significance until it becomes connected to something that has meaning to you.
  • First association with a smell is strongest and dominates all future encounters.

The Eden VR Olfactory project is on the cutting edge of the integration of visuals and scent in technology. The project made its debut in late August at Bookstock in Woodstock and will also be featured at the upcoming Burlington Book Festival and Burlington Innovation Week this fall.

EMC Team

The EMC Eden development team: Students (L>R) Duncan Carroll, Yvonne Lee, Dana Steinhoff, Sean Kennedy, Tyler Bolster, and Steven Margolin (front). Far right, Faculty Advisor Terry Sehr.


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit champlain.edu.