Smell-o-vision is real.

While the Google Nose was just a mere April Fool’s joke, the technology of replicable scents intrigued me; so I looked more into the subject. Turns out, it’s not really a joke but rather a serious field that could reap serious benefits. There’s even an entire society and conference dedicated to the idea, called the Digital Olfaction Society which had its first world congress conference in the past week.

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A society headed by Dr. Marvin Edeas, the Digital Olfaction Society is dedicated to offering numerous solutions that could be derived from a commercial ‘smell-o-vision’ technology. Dr. Edeas is especially interested in the recent breakthrough that aroma can activate intestinal receptors, making people feel more full than they are, something exceptionally relevant to the obesity epidemic in this country.  Furthermore, breakthroughs have been made showing how dogs can smell cancer and diabetes, and movie theatres would benefit from a increased attendance rate. Thus, Dr. Edeas is also excited by what improvements olfactory technology can have on the medical, gaming, security and justice, and entertainment businesses.

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But creating customizable scents on demand is more difficult than it appears. Due to the fact that there are no “primary and secondary odors” like with colors, in a sense (no pun intended), there are no basic building blocks that can be combined to form all smells imaginable. One synthetic scent of coffee can be produced, but at the current time, it is impossible to replicate a specific roast.

Nonetheless, certain technologies already exist in the scent-changing world. Nakatomo has created a Virtual Ice Cream Shop that recreates the scents of different ice cream flavors by mixing together approximately 30 chemical components. There is also something called the Meta Cookie, coined a “pseudo-gustatory display,” which “attempts to modify the perception of flavor by changing the food item’s appearance and masking its true smell with another, simulated scent.” Now who wouldn’t want to eat their green beans if it smelled and tasted just like a Twix candy bar? However, this technology still isn’t completely up to par for normal use because it relies on a headgear worn by the user to recognize a symbol branded on a plain cookie. Thus, the product not only has to be specifically made for the headgear, but once the symbol is tampered with or all together gone, the headgear no longer recognizes the item, and therefore stops producing the desired smell.

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Additionally, there is a portable device that can be plugged into an iPhone in order for one user to send the scent of a bouquet of roses to another, as well as a robot that can detect methane gas leaks, all very exciting stuff. It’s predicted that smell detection is highly likely to become huge in the near future due to its usefulness in many fields for safety precautions; however, reproducing custom scents is another story. Not just technology, but science as well, needs to be far more advanced in order to identify individual components of smells, and then build them together to replicate complicated odors. An extremely intriguing topic, olfactory technology could improve life in some drastic ways. At the very least, this field of technology stands to gain a lot of exposure on the near future especially now that the touch and sight senses have been conquered.

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8 thoughts on “Smell-o-vision is real.

  1. I found this article to be intriguing because I had never heard very much about olfactory technology. One of the key points that stood out to me is the impact this technology could have on the obesity problem. It’s true that if people smelled and tasted Twix as they ate green beans they would be much more likely to eat them instead of the unhealthy Twix bars. I also thought it was fascinating that there is a device for iPhones that allows for the sending of the smell of a bouquet of roses. As interesting as this technology sounds, it seems like a great deal more experimenting needs to be done before the general public can use it. Creating olfactory hallucinations could lead to mainstream use of other sensory hallucinations, causing people to live in a much less human way.

  2. I thought this article was interesting, and I know Smell-o-Vision was attempted once before and failed so it was definitely eye-opening to see how new technologies may be able to allow it to become a mainstream part of entertainment. However, I think this is an example of how technology is not always useful. I think that this would be an addition that, at best, will be unremarkable. 3D movies and TVs I feel are an unnecessary addition to entertainment, and smell-o-vision is just taking it to another level. Personally, I wouldn’t enjoy scents being sent to me or being omitted in a movie theatre, and I think if it ever did become a part of entertainment, it would be an unremarkable one.

  3. This is a really cool post because I think it is something that a lot of us have heard of or imagined in a kind of fantasy way. It is interesting to see that there is progress being made in this field but judging from the size of the headpiece needed to be worn in the current devices. I think it is very interesting that this could be used not only for enjoyment but also for solving problems such as obesity. I always imagined it as something used exclusively for advertising so it was interesting to use it as a potential solution to a serious problem. Great post.

  4. I’m glad you took the initiative to research more on this topic as it too was intriguing to me.. the possibility of smell stimulators and using technology to produce particular aromas. I think with this topic, a long with the majority of major technological advancements, it shows how through technology, life in general can become a whole lot less charming. Sending “e-flowers” with the scent of roses through the i-phone for example, we loose the tangibility and charm of actually holding real flower in our hands. It reminds me of how when e-books came out like the nook.. I was disappointed because it took away the charm of holding an actual book in hand and the tangibility and feeling of the pages.

  5. Wow, this blog post contains a lot of insight on a rather unusual topic, well done. The first thing that stood out to me was the Dr. Edea said that he wanted to look into how aroma’s can convince people that they are more full than they really are. This technology would worry me because there are many people who have eating disorders, i.e. bulimia and anorexia, and something like this could only hurt the disorder even more. Moving forward to the paragraph about Twix and how they could make other food smell and taste like Twix: this is amazing. If this is actually possible, then the idea of different food and unique tastes would go out the window. Can you imagine a world like this?

  6. Thank you for this blog post, as this is the first time I have heard mention of olfactory technology. And I am just upset with myself for not having read about this before. The uses and possibilites created by such a technology would be endless. In addition to the many uses you provided as examples in your blog, they are also thinking of military uses, such as being able to sense enemy soldiers through olfactory equipment. I could go on and on about examples, thank you for the blog and i will definitely look more into this breakthrough technology

  7. This blog post is very interesting. I too have never heard of olfactory technology. I especially liked the bit about eating your vegetables if they smelled like something much more appetizing. I think olfactory technology could be the future of the movie theater experience because it’d be engaging more of your senses and giving the viewer the feeling of being more involved on what is occurring on screen. It’s amazing to think of all the benefits this technology could yield just by appealing to another sense.

  8. I really liked the topic of this post! I think it is something that has definitely crossed my mind before, but I do not really see it as something that is really necessary, nor do I see it ever being something that I will ever need. I get why it can be helpful, but I do not really see a huge market for this type of technology. Realistically, I see this type of product on some sort of website like QVC, where the majority of customers buy things on how they are advertised, rather than what actually value they have. I agree with Lawrence that it takes away from the value of the scent, because part of the enjoyment of an object is the scent, the scent is not the whole reason for the enjoyment. Anyways, good job!

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