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Opening Arguments


If you think TV smells now, just wait:

Television viewers are surrounded by sight and sound, but U.S. researchers want to add smell to the small-screen experience.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, conducted a two-year experiment in collaboration with Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Korea, the school said Tuesday in a release. The researchers demonstrate that it is possible to generate odor in a compact device that can fit on the back of a TV with potentially thousands of odors.

[. . .]

"For example, if people are eating pizza, the viewer smells pizza coming from a TV or cellphone," said Sungho Jin, professor in the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Nano-Engineering at the university's Jacobs School of Engineering. "Instantaneously generated fragrances or odors would match the scene shown on a TV or cellphone, and that's the idea."

They were making fun of this on the radio this morning, predicting it would go nowhere based on the few times it's been tried -- remember "Odorama," the scratch-and-sniff cards handed out at John Waters' "Polyester" movie? But if I understand what they're attempting here, it will be slightly more advanced. A box will contain thousands of smells, and triggers can be built into a movie or tV show to set off certain smells at certain times.

And I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the potential. Smells can be a powerful trigger evoking all kinds of emotional responses. Just think of all the distinctive smells you can conjure up right now -- like bacon frying in the morning or somebody opening a fresh bag of hot popcorn at work. I can't recall my time in Southeast Asia without re-experiencing the heavy smell of ever-present fish sauce mingled with monsoon-drenched jungle growth.