Smell-o-Vision: Coming Soon?

We still don’t have hoverboards or robot maids, but a collaborative effort between Samsung and the University of California San Diego may make sure we do still live at least partly in the future we imagined. Behold, geeks, I give you: Smell-o-Vision.

Virtual smells have long eluded developers by being too difficult to control, impractical for in-home use, and in general, just not that awesome. The team says they’ve unlocked the final piece of full virtual reality using Silly Putty and some high-tech cellular developments. The new device utilizes aromatic gases encapsulated in polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), the stuff that makes Silly Putty so weirdly putty-like and silly.

The researchers arranged a number of these cells into a grid, with a wire piercing each row and column. Running an electrical current through these wires causes the gases in that row or column to heat up, but crucially a cell will only open when heated by two crossing wires at the same time. This system allows the researchers to select a particular cell from the grid just by heating the appropriate wires.

Tests show that the fine-tuned controls allow for quick smell turn-around, with just two minutes needed for the scents of two perfumes to be fully distinguishable.

Back in 2000, Weird Al Yankovic shared his thoughts on this whole Smell-o-Vision thing. I wonder if he still feels this way, and if so, how long I should hold out before buying a new TV.

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