Smack in the middle of a busy week in Barcelona, I decided to take a break. I walked around a crowded pavilion and stopped at a stall that offered some interesting experiences. I was invited to try tasty tomato soup, sniff some white wine and go on a short hike in the woods. Except none of it was real. No, I wasn’t hallucinating either. 

Invited to have a seat at a ‘Feel Tech Bar’ by NTT Docomo, bang in the middle of MWC 2024, Barcelona.

I was told they could make the perfect tomato soup according to my taste profile. A fairly detailed survey on their tab asks me about what flavours I enjoy and don’t.

The “bar” where you could taste the tomato soup.  

The “bar” where you could taste the tomato soup.   | Photo Credit: Mahananda Bohidar

The “bartender” sends this information to an espresso-machine lookalike, except this machine can create any flavour it’s asked to. For the demo, it was tomato soup. Clear water drips into a small shotglass. The first sip and there’s no mistaking that it’s tomato juice - or at least tastes exactly like it. 

Taken back by how accurate the flavours are, I let out an awkward laugh. This concept technology, which NTT Docomo has developed, is fairly new and the company hopes it will, if mainstreamed in the future, revolutionise the Extended Reality sector.

I then scoot over to the next table, which focuses on the sense of smell. A much shorter olfaction survey on the Human Augmentation Platform assesses which smells I favour. Sweet, fresh and gamey, it says.

The “perfumier” first gives me a glass with clear liquid and asks me to guess the smell. I take a sniff and it is vaguely reminiscent of wine, if it did not alcohol. It smells like diluted grape juice, at best. He takes it back, sends my olfactory profile to the not-a-coffee-machine and out comes a perfectly smelling Sauvignon Blanc. 

He mentioned taste and smell-based XR tech like what I experienced could possibly have us smelling perfumes before we buy them online, sampling wines without having to physically go to a vineyard, watching our favourite Ghibli movie and tasting the food we see on-screen. The possibilities seem endless. 

VR Adventure

I’m at my last pitstop on this VR adventure, and before I knew it I’m being hooked up with two finger-rings and a wrist brace on each hand. I am given a rather comfy pair of VR goggles to put on and told to enjoy the experience. The moment I put it on, a cute doggo appeared on stage where there was just blue carpet.

A sneak peek from MWC 2024

I can still see the real world around me, and my virtual pet too. I look to my right and there’s a bone I can offer the pup. I pinch my index finger and thumb over the bone to pick it up. I offer it to the dog and gladly takes it. I see a fabric tug toy for it to play with. As I offer one end, it quickly grabs the other and tugs at it hard.

I can tell because I unmistakably feel the tug on my wrist. He tugs so hard my end of the rope snaps and I can see him making a run for it. I mildly panic and take a few steps towards him. And, before I realise everything around me is green and brown.

Also read: Back with a bang! MWC 2024 roundup

I find myself bang in the middle of the woods, with only lush trees, fallen autumn leaves and the dog around me. The booth, the audience, and real life have ceased to exist. Blue squares pop up on the floor—spots I can walk onto to take my dog on a walk.

An eagle screeches above and is soon flying at me. I instinctively hoist one hand up, and it perches on my wrist. Again, I can feel its weight on my forearm. The forest looks so real, that I forget I’m in the middle of an auditorium packed with one lakh attendees. That’s my jolt back to reality.

The experience of engaging in extended reality through these senses was an experience like no other. Things I would never otherwise do in real life—such as having an eagle perch on my hand—carried no iota of apprehension or fear in the augmented reality world. Apart from other possibilities, XR does seem like a path to a fearless, adventurous future for us all.