Feature

Smell-o-vision TV: Coming soon?

Researchers have developed a device that would allow viewers to smell what's happening on TV. Get ready for your first whiff of Glee

For anyone who's ever wished he could smell the the buttery casserole Paula Deen's concocting on TV, that fantasy is one step closer to becoming a reality, thanks to a partnership between Samsung and researchers at the University of California, San Diego. The team has developed a compact box capable of generating 10,000 different smells, conceived to coincide with what's unfolding on your favorite shows. Here a guide, to "Smell-o-vision" TV:

Is this thing for real?Yes. An odor-producing box, containing a 100x100 matrix of thin metal wires, would be attached to a television set. An electric current would heat up any one of the "smell-forming" liquid solutions at each of the 10,000 intersections of that square matrix, "allowing for 10,000 different smells," says Kyle Wagner at Gizmodo. Presumably, TV shows of the future would be pre-programmed to give this smell box its marching orders, so that certain odors would be released at appropriate moments in the program.

What would smelling TV be like?"The possible scenarios are endless," according to the research team at UCSD. Imagine a romantic comedy where a couple meets in a coffee shop and you, as a viewer, are "too distracted by the hazelnut latte that looks so good you think you can smell it. And you can." If characters are eating pizza, or an attractive lady walks into a room wearing perfume, you'd be able to smell that, too. And when scents emanating from the TV begin to fade, you'd simply replace the odor-generating device like you would an "ink cartridge on your printer."

How long until I can smell The Real Housewives?Researchers must first prove the device is "reliable enough" to produce odors "on cue." Plus, the technology must be upgradable, so that advertisers and TV producers "can keep viewers up-to-date with new perfumes and character scents," says Andrea Rumbaugh at The Detroit News.

Do we really want this?Obviously, there are times when "olfactory feedback" from the TV "would be awesome," says Wagner at Gizmodo. "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory immediately comes to mind." But not every viewing experience would be equally as appealing. This won't exactly improve the "next rerun of Law and Order: SVU," says Bryan Hood at New York. But, it's clearly advertisers, not TV producers, who would "get the most mileage" out of an advancement like this. As if "it isn't already hard enough to resist those delicious Popeye's shrimp ads."

Sources: UCSD, Gizmodo, Paste, Detroit News, New York

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