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The Day of the Smelly Computer has Arrived!

The Day of the Smelly Computer has Arrived!

Now, in addition to sights and sounds, your computer can produce smells. A computer peripheral is now available that generates smells for a more immersive multimedia experience, with applications in entertainment and education.
Techspirited Staff
By Earl Hunsinger

Your computer stinks! If you have one of the new scent-producing computer peripherals on the market, this statement might not be meant metaphorically. Companies like Trisenx are trying to revolutionize computers and the Internet through the power of scent. Imagine receiving an email from your husband containing a picture of a beautiful bouquet of roses, complete with their delicate sweet scent. With a computer peripheral like Trisenx's scent dome, this is now possible.

People have been experimenting with scent-generating technologies for nearly 50 years. For example, one of the most famous experiments involved an invention called Smell-O-Vision. This was a device or process developed around 1960 to enhance the experience of watching a movie in a theater. The system used bottles of scent attached to a rotating drum. The various scents would be released by signals in the film itself, and delivered to the audience through pipes running to each seat. Although the system worked, only one film was ever made, Scent of a Mystery, and the man that invented the process lost his investment and left the film business.

Modern scent-generating peripherals for home computers work in a similar way. A device, like Trisenx's scent dome, is plugged into your personal computer. You then use the software that comes with it to 'play' one of the 20 scents that come with the product. You can program it to produce a sequence of scents at specific intervals for an aroma therapy session, or you can combine scents to create your own aromas. The company even offers custom scent cartridges with a catalog of 2,000 fragrances.

Computer controlled scent output technology is more than just an expensive air freshener. It can be used with movies, video games, animation, or other digital media to create a more immersive entertainment experience. As an example, imagine a racing game where the player can smell rubber burning as the tires squeal, or smoke when another car blows its engine. Since odors have been linked to emotions, such as fear or excitement, this kind of technology promises to create a more realistic experience in entertainment products.

Although Trisenx and similar companies market their products heavily in the entertainment sector, there are also other uses for such devices. Imagine being able to work with a professional perfumer in France to create a custom fragrance, without ever leaving home.

If you've ever walked down the coffee aisle at the grocery store and suddenly wanted a cup of coffee, you know how effective aromas can be in marketing. Imagine shopping on the Internet for coffee, or oranges, or exotic spices. Would you be more inclined to purchase some if you could not only see them, but smell them as well?

Speaking of exotic spices, scent output technology also has an application in education. Imagine how much greater impact a study of India would have on elementary school students if they could smell the spices as they took a virtual walk through an open air market. In a similar way, children learning their ABCs could smell apples for the letter A, and so on.

There are also applications in the medical field. There have been studies showing a link between olfactory deficits and certain brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's. Scent output technology would allow doctors to differentiate these from other conditions.

It might even be possible to use the technology to train doctors to diagnose certain medical conditions by smell. Or to train aircraft mechanics to detect specific problems by smell.

So whether you feel that you could benefit from a serious application of scent-generating technology, or just crave the excitement of a more realistic video game, for a few hundred dollars your computer can smell too.

Now that scents are available, in addition to sights and sounds, what's next for the Internet? Of our five senses, the only ones left are touch and taste. Believe it or not, companies like Trisenx are working on commercial technologies for these senses as well. So rather than rushing right out and getting the scent-generating peripheral, maybe you'll want to wait until you can get the whole package, making your computer a true gateway to a virtual world.