A prototype device attached to your TV or cellphone can produce over 10,000 different scents. I can't wait to smell CSI!
If Smell-O-Vision sounds like a failed 1950s technology, that's because it is. The ability to add the sense of smell to the sight and sound of a storyteller's palette might have been a breakthrough, but the system was plagued with problems and a hokey presentation. The idea has staying power, however, and a group of scientists at the University of California in San Diego, funded by Samsung, might have developed a device to make smell-o-vision a reality. The team believes that they've stumbled on a unique way to reproduce varying scents with a 100 x 100 grid of small pockets containing a solution with a particular odor. Wires heat these pockets, releasing the scents that mix in the air to form specfic odors. Imagine the marketing possibilities of such a device attached to your TV or phone.
"If people [in the show] are eating pizza, the viewer smells pizza coming from a TV or cell phone," said Sungho Jin, a professor on the team. "And if a beautiful lady walks by, they smell perfume. Instantaneously generated fragrances or odors would match the scene shown on a TV or cell phone, and that's the idea."
Not only that, but the device might be able to provide the scents of different perfumes. Jin tested the device with two commercial perfumes, "Live" by Jennifer Lopez, and "Passion" by Elizabeth Taylor. Each tester was able to identify the different fragrances at a distance up to 30 cm away from the device.
While the implications for such technology is pretty cheesy for TV or movies - I could see it as more viable in advertisements. Want to smell like this? Buy this perfume! Doesn't that burger smell good? Eat at Joes!
If used correctly, videogames might actually be the best application for Smell-o-vision. Imagine smelling the dust of the Earth in a gritty shooter, or the tang of ozone when the mage casts lightning bolt in the next RPG from Bethesda. Yeah, that could be pretty cool.