Coming to TV screens of the future: Smell-O-Vision

June 16, 2011

Researchers at UC San Diego and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Korea have demonstrated that it is possible to generate thousands of odors with a device small enough to fit on the back of your television.

This could make real “Smell-O-Vision” possible. “Smell-O-Vision” was a film technique that released smells during films, used for only one movie, The Smell of Mystery, released in 1960.

“For example, if people are eating pizza, the viewer smells pizza coming from a TV or cell phone,” said Sungho Jin, professor in the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and NanoEngineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “And if a beautiful lady walks by, they smell perfume. Instantaneously generated fragrances or odors would match the scene shown on a TV or cell phone.”

The researchers found that it is possible to create a compact device which heats a small metal wire to vaporize an aqueous solution, such as ammonia or rose oil, releasing smells from a small chamber. The chamber is made of a non-toxic, non-flammable silicon elastomer.

The system uses 200 controllers to selectively activate as many as 10,000 odors. That pretty much covers the number of odors humans can distinguish, the researchers said.