Digital scent technology

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Digital scent technology (or olfactory technology) is the engineering discipline dealing with olfactory representation. It is a technology to sense, transmit and receive scent-enabled digital media (such as web pages, video games, movies and music). This sensing part of this technology works by using olfactometers and electronic noses.


In the late 1950s, a Hans Laube invented the Smell-O-Vision, a system which released odor during the projection of a film so that the viewer could "smell" what was happening in the movie. The Smell-O-Vision faced competition with AromaRama, a similar system invented by Charles Weiss that emitted scents through the air-conditioning system of a theater.[1] Variety dubbed the competition "the battle of the smellies".[2]

Smell-O-Vision did not work as intended. According to a Variety review of the mystery comedy film Scent of Mystery (1960), which featured the one and only use of Smell-O-Vision, aromas were released with a distracting hissing noise and audience members in the balcony complained that the scents reached them several seconds after the action was shown on the screen. In other parts of the theater, the odors were too faint, causing audience members to sniff loudly in an attempt to catch the scent. These technical problems were mostly corrected after the first few showings, but the poor word of mouth, in conjunction with generally negative reviews of the film itself, led to the decline of Smell-O-Vision.[citation needed]

iSmell prototypes

In 1999, DigiScents developed a computer peripheral device called iSmell, which was designed to emit a smell when a user visited a web site or opened an email. The device contained a cartridge with 128 "primary odors", which could be mixed to replicate natural and man-made odors. DigiScents had indexed thousands of common odors, which could be coded, digitized, and embedded into web pages or email.[3] After $20 million in investment, DigiScents was shut down in 2001 when it was unable to obtain the additional funding it required.[4]

In 2000, AromaJet developed a scent-generating device prototype called Pinoke.[5] No new announcements have been made since December 2000.[citation needed]

In 2003, TriSenx (founded in 1999) launched a scent-generating device called Scent Dome, which by 2004 was tested by the UK internet service provider Telewest. This device was about the size of a teapot and could generate up to 60 different smells by releasing particles from one or more of 20 liquid-filled odor capsules. Computers fitted with a Scent Dome unit used software to recognize smell identifying codes embedded in an email or web page.[6]

In 2004, Tsuji Wellness and France Telecom developed a scent-generating device called Kaori Web, which comes with 6 different cartridges for different smells. The Japanese firm, K-Opticom, had placed special units of this device in their internet cafes and other venues until the end of the experiment - March 20, 2005.[7]

Also in 2004, the Indian inventor Sandeep Gupta founded SAV Products, LLC and claimed to show a scent-generating device prototype at CES 2005.[8] However, the device was not seen there.[citation needed]

In 2005, researchers from the University of Huelva developed XML Smell, a protocol of XML that can transmit smells. The researchers also developed a scent-generating device and worked on miniaturising its size.[9]

Also in 2005, Thanko launched P@D Aroma Generator, a USB device that comes with 3 different cartridges for different smells.[10]


In 2005, Japanese researchers announced that they are working on a 3D television with touch and smell that would be commercially available on the market by the year 2020.[11]

In June 2011, a press release from the University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering[12] announced a paper published in Angewandte Chemie[13] describing an optimization and minitaturization of a component that can select and release scents from 10,000 odors, that is intended to be part of a Digital scent solution for TVs and phones.

In March 2013, a group of Japanese researchers unveiled a prototype invention they dubbed a "smelling screen". The device combines a digital display with four small fans that direct an emitted odor to a specific spot on the screen. The fans operate at a very low speed, making it difficult for the user to perceive airflow; instead he or each perceives the smell as coming directly out of the screen and object displayed at that location.[14]

In 2013, the Spanish engineer Raúl Porcar developed Olorama, by far the most efficient system which incorporates scents into audiovisual world including Virtual Reality. Basically, it is based on hardware, software and essential oils synchronized via Wi-Fi with the movie player or VR engine. This device is able to disperse up to 12 different scents. The scent lasts exactly the required time and doesn't mix up with the next scene's fragrance.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BOSLEY CROWTHER (December 10, 1959). "Movie Review: Behind the Great Wall (1959) - Smells of China; 'Behind Great Wall' Uses AromaRama". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Gilbert, Avery (2008). Hollywood Psychophysics" What the Nose Knows. Crown Publishers. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-4000-8234-6. 
  3. ^ Martin, James A (1999-10-13). "Sniff That Web Site". PC World. Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  4. ^ "Digiscents runs out of cents". 31 May 2001. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Smelly device would liven up web browsing". NewScientist. 2004-02-20. 
  7. ^ "These images STINK. Really.". 
  8. ^ "Gaming Smells - It's a Fact". MegaGames. 2004-12-30. 
  9. ^ "XML Smell language developed by university". The Inquirer. 2005-01-23. 
  10. ^ "Thanko USB P@D Aroma Generator". 
  11. ^ "3D TV with Touch, Smell by 2020?". 
  12. ^ Hockmuth, Catherine. "Coming to TV Screens of the Future: a Sense of Smell". UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. UC San Diego. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  13. ^ Kim, Hyunsu; et al. (14 June 2011). "An X–Y Addressable Matrix Odor-Releasing System Using an On–Off Switchable Device". Angewandte Chemie 50 (30): 6771–6775. doi:10.1002/anie.201102759. 
  14. ^ Amanda Kooser (April 2, 2013). "Japanese scientists create 'Smell-O-Vision' screen". CNET. Retrieved April 3, 2013. 
  15. ^ "The real history of smells in the cinema". OLORAMA TECHNOLOGY. February 24, 2016.