5 Senses and 5 Levels of Intimacy: Do we need all 5 stimuli to evoke emotional response?

I’ve had this thought for a while since we discussed ‘The Sympathy of Things’ in class. Ryan mentioned something about how he went to a conference a while back and hearing people talking and working on making the best, high definition, and realistic visual and audio simulation but not much about human sense of touch. I think today, it’s safe to say that people have been trying to achieve that. through full body experience virtual reality, pressure, vibration, use of gravity, wearable technologies, etc. I think those are the beginning of it.

I remember when I was a 11, I started to learn how to download music and movies illegally (since my brother never let me borrow his casettes and CDs, this condition forced me to be tech savvy) and at some point I wondered if we would ever be able to download smell and have a scent devices like mp3 players. It’s been a decade and I haven’t heard any word about a research or development. If we are able to create visual and audio simulations then what about our other senses, touch, smell, and taste?

The more I think about it, the more I think about our senses’ relationships to our memories and emotions. If I were to list down all 5 senses starting from least intimate to most intimate, it’d be like this:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Touch
  4. Smell
  5. Taste

And so far we have devices that could simulate what we see and what we hear. We could easily make digital copies of it and share it with whoever we want. And we are currently trying to create simulations for touch. I wonder how long it’d take, if it’s possible at all, to create simulations for smell and taste.

Both are such abstract concept and even we have trouble describing it with today’s linguistic expressions. They’re also strong triggers for emotions and memories, if one day technology could make those simulation happen, it’d be such a strong instrument. 

I’m still curious about it. but anyway, back to my project:

Is it necessary to activate all 5 of our senses to trigger emotional response? I don’t think so. While I won’t deny that some of them are stronger stimuli than the others, I believe we can use other things that are readily available in today’s technology to get emotional response from an audience.

Based on a study conducted in Berkeley, human adults can only focus and be conscious of 4 tasks at a time. If one were told to watch their breathing, be aware of their heartbeat, feel the texture on their fingertips, and listen to a voice, they would be lost in those four moments.

I can use this limit to my advantage on creating a false full immersive experience with a simple machine.