Welcome to the internet of senses

You may already know about the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and haptics, but what's next? Beyond seeing and hearing, it seems the Internet of Senses may define the next chapter in 5G-enabled online experiences.

You are sitting in your kitchen. As you think about having a dinner party, the room starts to change. Music plays softly, the plain kitchen tiles take on bright patterns and the smell of fragrant lamb stew hits your nostrils. You turn your gaze to the table, which is now covered with a rustic woven cotton cloth, flowers, lit candles, and exotically decorated plates, all of which you rearrange.

You simply think ‘Create invitation’ and avatars of your friends with calendar access begin to appear, sitting in the chairs. Your table fills up with ingredients from a digital store, letting you check their freshness and taste-test a new yogurt sauce. Since two guests are vegetarians, you also taste a plant-based stew before placing your order.

Today, technology interacts primarily with two senses – sight and sound. At Ericsson Research, our vision is that advanced technology will enable a full internet of senses by 2025 and include the ability to digitally communicate thoughts by 2030.

We live in a screen-based 4G world where smartphones are integral to our lives, but people aren’t expecting this to be the case for much longer. Half the world’s smartphone users predict that by 2025, we will all be wearing lightweight, fashionable AR glasses. Consumers also predict wearables that can instantly translate languages, allow us to control our sound environment, and experience smell, taste, texture and temperature digitally. As consumers step further into this sensory digital world, they will require hyper-fast connectivity, imperceptible edge-computing-based lag, and advanced automation.

This vision is not only based on expected technological advances, but also on consumer research: urban early adopters expect that we will be using all of our senses online by 2030. Of those, 68 per cent want to use at least 1 of 6 conceptual internet of senses applications we have asked about, and 81 per cent are open to the idea overall. Of those who want an internet of senses, 40 per cent see immersive entertainment as a main driver for this change; 33 per cent think better online shopping will be key; and 31 per cent think this change will come about due to the climate crisis.