Digitizing Smell

BY IN Technology Integrator Comments Off on Digitizing Smell

This topic has reminded me once when I was in Junior High School. My Physic Teacher at that time told me about the television that can distribute a specific smell according to the situation that appeared on the screen. For example, if the show at that time is about cooking contest, then the smell of the dishes will come out and fill the air. At that time, I was just wondering if some of this phenomena will truly happen in the future. Years later I realize that the experiment for recording the smell is still under investigation by the scientist. Here’s some research about inventing the machine that can produce a specific smell:


Smell is so much a part of how we define the world and our experiences. Some aromas waft over us with a tide of memories in tow – the amalgamation of seaweed, wet sand and cigarettes for instance, or the bittersweet tang of a once-loved but conveniently forgotten perfume.

Scientists in Japan have developed a machine that analyzes aromas through 15 sensor chips and reproduces the scent by mixing 96 different chemicals. The machine then vaporizes the mixture. Each of the 96 chemicals is contained in separate glass bottles, which makes the machine quite large – 3 feet by 2 feet. The machine is hardly portable, though a more compact version is available. This version only has the sensor chips, which digitally record the odor, and it must be hooked up to the chemical-filled version to experience the scent.

A compact smellovision machine

(AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)

In December, another Japanese company (NTT Communications Corporation) developed a machine that synchronizes scents with movies called Smellovision. The in-theater version emits scents from machines located under the back rows, basing the scent on the mood of the scene. Now there’s a home version that costs just over $600. The in-house version allows users to download specialized programs to produce scents for different activities. But as Hans Greimel of the Associated Press says, “The NTT Project…was about reproducing smells rather than recording them as well.”


The digital smell is basically a hardware software combination. The hardware part of digital smell will produce the smell, and the software part will evaluate the smell equation and generate specific signals for specific smell and finally that smell will be produced by the device. The hardware device is a device like speaker, like speaker this device is also connected to the computer system. For this device there is also a driver program which will evaluate the digital equation for generating specific gas.

Until now, online communication involved only three of our senses – hearing, touch, and sight. New technology is being developed to appeal to our sense of smell. DigiScents, an interactive media company, is creating iSmell Digital Scent Technology, new software which will enable scents to be broadcast from the Web.Coding of aromas would be downloaded to computer similar to graphics images as audible sounds. Ultimately users will be able to create and modify their own fragrances and post them on the internet (2000). Also discussed the potential for creating smell capture cameras, which could add fragrances coding to images and sounds.
The “Savor the World” tagline illustrates the California-based company’s aims to tap into the power of scent as a communication tool. “DigiScents combines the power of science with the fact that the sense of smell is as powerful and emotional trigger as any other sense,” the Web site states.

Apart from the research for recording the smell that is still going on, even until now, we still have a big question mark for the smell. Is it recordable??? The research above is creating the smell that already has its own formula. They can create a digital smell from a specific perfume, for example. But what about a specific smell that is really hard and difficult to define? A smell of your old pillow, a smell of a fresh air of Kuta Beach in Bali, or like what my teacher said, a live smell from one situation? One of my colleague teacher said, why we are facing difficulties to measure smell; because the smell does not have a wave. If only we can measure the smell in some unit, we will surely be able to record it and convert it into digital, upload it into the internet, so people around the world can download it and “play it” for their nose. Hopefully this will become into a reality somewhere in the future, as for this moment, let just make it as a science research for the student.
Written by: Wahyu Kurniawan


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