Start-up companies are working on devices that would mimic a multitude of scents, including roses, cotton candy and burning rubber. One company, TriSenx, has unveiled a computer mouse that sells for $269 and reproduces 20 basic smells that can be mixed to create hundreds of others.
Another company, Digiscents, has designed a device called iSmell that contains 128 basic scents and can create thousands more?from mint toothpaste to Brie cheese. ISmell costs about $200 and is due out in August.
You trigger the smells with a mouse click. The companies are encouraging Web retailers to send the smell of their products online to customers who use the devices, for a multimedia experience.
Researchers say some smells are more accurate than others. Peppermints, fruits and flowers are easier to reproduce than beef stroganoff, fresh baked cookies or different brands of chocolate or perfume.
Smells could also be added to video games, to make the experience more authentic. The smell of burning rubber would make a car race seem more real. DVD movies could add smells as well. Hong Kong movie buffs may be the first to sniff a scented movie early next year, when Golden Harvest Pictures, based in China, presents its new film ?Lavender.?
Some people are skeptical about whether people want smells along with their shopping or entertainment. In 1960, movie makers created Smell-O-Vision for the movie ?Scent of Mystery,? with the odors of garlic, paint and perfume. The idea never took off.
?There probably are some small audiences for online smell out there,? says media analyst Malcolm MacLachlan, ?but it won?t become mainstream anytime soon?I don?t want to smell fried food on an average day.?
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