The Xbox One Controller Almost Emitted Smells?!?

The new Xbox One controller could have had Smell-O-Vision. Why Microsoft decided otherwise is a lesson in designing experience.

The Xbox One Controller Almost Emitted Smells?!?

The Xbox One will have a lot of neat tricks. It will integrate apps with your television programming, side by side. And if all goes well, it could even be the first major platform behind the Internet of Things.


But like any big product, some features were left on the cutting-room floor. And according to Stepehn Totillo over on Kotaku, one of those features was a stock controller that would emit various smells as you played video games. From Kotaku:

Alam’s team made a smell-emitting prototype Xbox controller. ‘So essentially you can have a couple of predefined cartridges like gunpowder, burning rubber, smoke, flowers,’ he said. “For example, a core scenario could be, ‘Hey, I’m walking through a forest. As I’m walking through a forest, I’ll smell foliage.’ We can have that scent predefined.”

And what happened?

The after-smell—the smell residue—killed that experiment.

‘While some folks don’t mind a rubber smell in the room for a while, other members of the household will not appreciate it if it’s still lingering in the room after half an hour.’

Now I’m not sure we can ever say the idea was great–so long as any device can only emit a small handful of smells, it probably won’t bridge the gap from novelty to immersive experience. That said, Microsoft’s experiments offer an interesting lesson in interaction design. When building an experience for one person, you can’t just worry about that one person; you have to worry about every other person who might be around your user.

It’s why those wearable headsets that simulate a 50-inch TV have never taken off: No one wants to look like an idiot in public to everyone else on the train. (And that’s a challenge Oculus Rift will need to consider as it approaches marketing moving forward.) It’s why Siri is fun, but even if she were more reliable, we might not use her in front of others. (And that’s a challenge Google will need to consider as it continues pushing voice search.)

Living in the future has its perks, but all the delightful novelty in the universe can disappear with one upturned nose from a loved one or a stranger.

Read more here.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.