How Internet Odors Will Work

The iSmell Personal Scent Synthesizer is a device that will emit electronically-triggered smells.

Photo courtesy DigiScents

Many of us spend just as much time in cyberspace touring the electronic landscapes of the Internet as we spend offline. But for all of the time we spend in front of our computer monitors, this virtual world lacks many of the real world's most precious attributes. One of the biggest drawbacks of the cyber world is its lack of realism. Most of us are born with five senses, allowing us to see, hear, touch, smell and taste; yet the Internet takes advantage of less than half of these.

When you log onto your computer, what senses are you using? Sight is probably the most obvious of the senses we use to collect information. The Internet is almost completely vision-based. While audio technology, like MP3 music files, have made a lot of noise recently, the Internet is made up mostly of words and pictures. You can also throw in touch as a third sense used in computer interaction, but that is mostly in terms of interfacing by way of keyboard and mouse. Since the beginning of the Internet, software developers have chosen to ignore our senses of smell and taste. However, there are at least two American companies who are planning to awaken all of your senses by bringing digital odors to the Internet.

We have the ability to recognize thousands of odors; and some scientists believe that smell has the power to unlock memories. In this edition of How Stuff Will Work, you will learn how smells will be transmitted to your desktop and what other possible applications this technology could present.