Virtual Smells

The five senses of the human body all have various technologies being developed to record and reproduce experiences for reference later.  The sense of smell is not something many of us have had virtual experience with.    It is common for people to relate to smell on an emotional level as few people outside of the fragrance industry have a critically discerning nose.

Professor Takamichi Nakamoto from the Tokyo Institute of Technology researches and specializes in olflactory reproduction.  Using an odor recorder and measuring various attributes of a smell with sensors allows for it to be reproduced later by a newly invented device.  The device contains a set of fragrant liquids that can be combined chemically to reproduce the smell for our nose.  Common sensory descriptions for smells involve vocabulary like musky, pungent, floral, and pepperminty.

In 2007 NTT Communications Corp created a movie experience for a Hollywood movie called The New World that synchronized seven different smells to be dispersed in the movie theater with related scenes in the movie.

Some of the mappings between emotions and smells used were:

  • Love as a floral scent
  • Sadness as a mix of peppermint and rosemary
  • Joy as a mix of orange and grapefruit
  • Anger as a mix of eucalyptus and tea tree

The incorporation of smell into the virtual experience of environments is certainly something that will continue to innovate as technology progresses.  As this work continues, we expect that relationships between smells and emotions could become further codified.  Is there any smell you wish you could record?