Somboon’s system will use 15 chemical-sensing microchips, or electronic noses, to pick up a broad range of aromas. These are then used to create a digital recipe from a set of 96 chemicals that can be chosen according to the purpose of each individual gadget. When you want to replay a smell, drops from the relevant vials are mixed, heated and vaporised. In tests so far, the system has successfully recorded and reproduced the smell of orange, lemon, apple, banana and melon. “We can even tell a green apple from a red apple,” Somboon says.
The suggestion is that this technology will allow customers to “smell before they buy,” but I bet you dimes to dollars that it’s only a matter of time before pre-adolescent boys are using it to record gross smells and play it back to their friends. Kids can be so cruel.
Reproducing smells has been tried before.
Smell-O-Vision (pictured) was one in a long line of inventions in the 1950s and 1960s that were supposed to keep movie theaters competitive against the encroachments of television (3D movies were another). The device worked similarly, except that instead of mixing chemicals, it used a number of scents distilled from actual objects and placed into vials. The smells could then be “piped” into the theater. It was not, unsurprisingly, a resounding success.