Researchers at the University of California and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Korea have been looking at the technology for two years now, and have come up with a proof-of-concept design that really could result in smell-o-vision, TV that pumps out odors to heighten to your immersive-TV experience.
Nasal nostalgia is made possible by your brain's hippocampus--where long-term memories get sorted out--and it seems it's a very primal instinct, which may explain its power. You know what I mean: The way an unexpected whiff of scent will spark off memories of a long-forgotten partner. It's also why supermarkets pump the smell of baking bread into the store, to encourage you to feel good about food. Timed properly, the release of smells can be a powerful trick, which is why bolting smell-generating tech into a TV is an extremely promising idea.
The scientists have devised a small device, which could easily slot behind a TV screen, that's capable of puffing out thousands of different smells. It's made of, as you may imagine, an array of tiny pots of silicone elastomer containing chemicals (such as ammonia, for that...well...for that cat-pee scent). A minute heating coil inside the device heats the scents to push them through a small elastic pore at the top of the pot, which then diffuses into your room.
Ten thousand tiny scent pots controlled by a simple 100 by 100 controller array to keep the costs down create a device powerful enough to quickly disperse smells to match the on-screen action. Besides the thrill of smelling exhaust during a car chase, fresh grass during a football game, or the aftershave of Mr. Darcy, there's a huge opportunity for advertisers here. A Starbucks ad could come with a whiff of coffee, and subliminally make you yearn for a venti-sized latte, for instance. Don't even get us started on French fries. The team actually tested its invention with the perfumes "Live" by Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Taylor's "Passion" and found subjects could definitely detect the relatively small amounts of scent released by the device within a 30-centimeter range.
These days we go to the electronics store to get printer ink, but in the future we'll be running out to Best Buy to get a new scent cartridge of bacon essence for watching the Food Network. That beats 3-D any day.
[Image via Flickr user Dimacius]