Monday, July 03, 2006

The smell of science

A report by Paul Marks in New Scientist tells of a successfully effort to construct a smell recorder by a team at Tokyo Institute of Technology. It is a little complicated, but if they have got the essentials down, as it seems they have, one could imagine many applications beyond the several they mentioned: online shopping, virtual reality, and use in remote medical diagnoses. It seems it would be possible to both "print" the odors onto paper, and have them discharged towards the user's face by a fan built into the computer display. If an odor codec is agreed upon and standardized, odors could be coded into web pages, movies, and music. Also, a biometric odor system could be one of the most non-intrusive biometric systems. Perhaps it could be called a bioscentric, or a B.O.-metric identification system.

Update 2006.07.05: Oops. What was I thinking? I guess it wouldn't make a very good biometric if you can record and playback the odor, print buckets of it, and bathe in it in order to assume a different B.O.metric profile. I was just free associating there. Well, anyway, you could use it to produce FBI sketches of criminals that include the odor as an embedded scratch'n'sniff, suitable for posting in a public place such as the Post Office. Oh, yeah, right, who the hell would want to scratch it and find out Osama binLaden smells like this, Saddam Hussein smells like this, here is Charles Manson, the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh…? Anyway, I am sure this technology is at least as useful as the laser, which people had a hard time imagining uses for at first.

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