Login | Signup

Crazy Xbox One Controller Prototypes Let Players Smell The Action

Jonathan Lester
Microsoft, Xbox One

Crazy Xbox One Controller Prototypes Let Players Smell The Action

The Xbox One controller is a sumptuously comfortable if conservative piece of kit (barring awkward bumper placement - hopefully we'll get used to that), but Microsoft spent “hundreds of millions” of Dollars experimenting with truly bizarre concepts before settling on the final design. If the R&D division had their way, we might have been able to hear, smell or even see the action projected onto the walls and floors.

Wait, smell the action? Could that ever have been a good idea? Most games have at least one sewer section, after all...

Xbox general manager for accessories Zulfi Alam waxed lyrical about developing the Xbox One's controller in a VentureBeat feature, wherein he discussed some of the exciting features that made it into "hundreds" of prototypes.

“We looked at concepts like adding displays to the controller," he said. "We looked at concepts like adding smell. We built small slugs of different types of smells that could actually come out of a controller. Like, as you walked through a jungle, you’d smell the flora."

Smelling Gareth Bale's sweaty jersey, Call Of Duty: Ghosts' wet dog and Battlefield 4's stagnant flood water doesn't sound like a particularly attractive offer, to be honest. In fact, the only game I'd really ever like to smell is Flower. Perhaps Cooking Mama for freshly-baked bread. Mmm, freshly-baked bread. I really need to stop writing at lunchtime.

This was just the tip of the iceberg, since Microsoft also experimented with touch pads, speakers and cameras, such as you'll find on the DualShock 4 and Wii U GamePad. However, “each one of these ideas fell down,” due both to practicality, price point and battery life concerns. And, perhaps, them being totally redundant and unnecessary.

“You’ve got a great TV with a better speaker than we could ever put in this controller, and it made more sense to [not make players look down at a display], keeping the user’s attention on the TV," Alam explained. "We really want them to be immersed in the experience that’s happening in front of them. You’re burning battery life like there’s no tomorrow – not a great idea."

Agreed. Speaking of immersion, Alam also revealed that one of the controller prototypes channelled Microsoft's Illumiroom concept by projecting ambient game footage around the player. Again, this was nipped in the bud due to it being a bit distracting and a major waste of AA batteries.

As things stand, none of these reckless ideas made it out of the Redmond skunkworks, leading to the Xbox One getting a fairly traditional peripheral with a few neat improvements. Upgraded rumble and impulse triggers, even more ergonomic shell and a D-Pad that doesn't completely ruin our lives is probably what we want from a console controller.

I'll bring you a full review of the Xbox One controller soon, but for the record, it feels like it has been sculpted specifically for me. Apart from those damn bumpers. The fun starts this Friday.

What, in your wildest dreams, do you want from a controller? Smell? Projection? Valve's exciting black plastic owlface? Let us know in the comments.

Add a comment15 comments
davidpanik  Nov. 19, 2013 at 13:35

I honestly just had to go and check what today's date was.

DivideByZero  Nov. 19, 2013 at 13:42

Actually, a few times I have been playing random games and thought smell would be a good idea. Sometimes when really immersed in a game your mind gets tricked into smelling what you expect to smell.

There is a ride in Epcot where they have smells that combine with the visuals and it's a really nice touch.

When I was a kid, they did a program on TV and that came witch a scratch and sniff book and you had to scratch and sniff the relevant panels at the right time. It was pretty cool but ruined immersion due to the fact you had to scratch and sniff a card.

One thing that came out of that was that the sense of smell triggers memories really well.

Late  Nov. 19, 2013 at 13:59

Sounds entirely plausible. If memory serves, there are only around 10-12 smells that the human nose can detect - and everything you've ever smelled is a combination of those. So it should be possible to recreate any smell you want using 10-12 small vials in a controller.

Of course, you'd end up paying a fortune for replacement odour cartridges a few months later.
There's a sentence I didn't envision typing today.

JonLester  Nov. 19, 2013 at 14:01

I'm sure that Doritos and Mountain Dew would get in on the action pretty quickly...

DivideByZero  Nov. 19, 2013 at 14:19

If you could snort Mountain Dew from an Xbox One I would have pre ordered 10!

Anarchist  Nov. 19, 2013 at 14:28

Theres still time! I might quickly go patent my new USB smell peripheral!

CarlPhillips  Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:00

I'll be honest - I don't think the world is quite ready for Smell-vatars (patent pending). Can you imagine their use during online gaming? It would be horrific.

stevenjameshyde  Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:08

Theres still time! I might quickly go patent my new USB smell peripheral!

And it shall be called... The Odour Coder. Use of the name permitted in exchange for just 50% of the profits

JonLester  Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:17

The Smell Processor? I'll take 40% (sorry stevenjameshyde, but this is business :P )

Last edited by JonLester, Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:20
Late  Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:32

The stinkbox ™ ©.

Yeah, I know.
But I'm only charging 30% for the name...

Late  Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:51


Last edited by Late, Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:53
Anarchist  Nov. 19, 2013 at 15:56

Thinking about it, the whole idea just stinks. It doesn't make any scents.

Late  Nov. 19, 2013 at 16:03

You're too quick to turn your nose up at it. I smell success.

(Another productive day. The boss would be proud.)

Anarchist  Nov. 19, 2013 at 16:13

Who nose what groan-worthy puns you'll come up with next :\

Anarchist  Nov. 19, 2013 at 16:17

And sometimes the simple and obvious names are the best...

...The Eggbox™

Lets be honest, if you could send smells down the Internet to everybody else, 98% of us would just be farting on it. All the cool kids will be doing it in 2014.

Email Address:

You don't need an account to comment. Just enter your email address. We'll keep it private.