Future TVs will broadcast not only images but also smells

In the past two years, researchers at the University of California in San Diego have conducted a study in collaboration with Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Korea. In a proof of concept paper published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers demonstrated that it is possible to generate thousands of smells with the help of a compact device, small enough to be attached at the back of the TV.

Jin and his team of graduate students will use an X-Y matrix system in order to minimize the amount of circuits that would be necessary to produce a compact device that could generate any smell at all times. The fragrance comes from an aqueous solution such as ammonia, which forms an odorous gas when heated by a thin metal wire that conducts electricity. The solution is kept in anon-toxic, non-flammable compartment, made from silicone elastomer that releases the smell when opened.

Even if television, mobile and advertising companies are open to the idea, the question arises whether this new technology can be applied.

In the absence of an X-Y matrix system, thousands of individual controllers would be required to cover the range of odors of a commercial system. By contrast, using an X-Y matrix system is equivalent to 200 controllers enabling each of the 10,000 odors.

The team of researchers at the University of California tested the device with two commercial perfumes: “Live by Jennifer Lopez” and “Passion by Elizabeth Taylor.” In both cases, a human tester was able to smell the odors from the test chamber within 30 centimeters. As the perfumes were switched, the tester was exposed to the smell of coffee beans, a common practice for “clearing” the sense of smell of the tester after a series of tested fragrances.

The concept of multi-odor was initiated by the research and development group at Samsung, under the leadership of Kim Jongmin. They came to the University of California in order to put into practice the device they had imagined.