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Device Brings Sense Of Smell To Television

June 15, 2011

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego conducted research alongside Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology to develop a compact device that distributes odor while watching television.

The researchers said television programs are designed to trigger your emotions and your mind through the senses of sound and sight, and wanted to add smell to its repertoire.

“For example, if people are eating pizza, the viewer smells pizza coming from a TV or cell phone,” Sungho Jin, professor in the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and NanoEngineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, said in a statement.

“And if a beautiful lady walks by, they smell perfume. Instantaneously generated fragrances or odors would match the scene shown on a TV or cell phone, and that’s the idea.”

The researchers used an X-Y matrix system in order to minimize the amount of circuitry that would be required to produce a compact device that could generate any odor at any time.

The scent comes from an aqueous solution like ammonia, which forms an odorous gas when heated through a thin metal wire by an electrical current.

The team said solution is kept in a compartment made of non-toxic, non-flammable silicone elastomer.  As the heat and odor pressure start to build, a tiny compressed hole in the elastomer is opened, which releases the odor.

Without this X-Y matrix system, thousands of individual controllers would be needed to accommodate the range of odors required for a commercial system.

“That’s a lot of circuitry and wires,” Jin said in a statement.

By using this X-Y matrix system, the researchers can selectively activate 10,000 odors.

The team tested their device with two commercially available perfumes, “Live by Jennifer Lopez,” and “Passion by Elizabeth Taylor.”  During both tests, a human tester was able to smell and distinguish the scents within about 12 inches of the test chamber.

“This is likely to be the next generation TV or cell phone that produces odors to match the images you see on the screen.” Jin said in a statement.

The next phase in research would include developing a prototype and demonstrating that it is reliable enough to release odors on cue and scalable to the size needed for consumer electronics like TVs and cell phones.

Samsung’s research and development group initiated the concept.

A proof of concept paper was published online June 14 in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Image 2: An electrical current is sent through the lead wires to heat an aqueous solution. The heat builds pressure, causing a tiny hole in an elastomer to open, releasing the odor, which is measured by the detector.

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Device Brings Sense Of Smell To Television


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