Friday, March 12, 2010
Weird Wednesday: Whatever happened to the olfactory web?
In some ways the olfactory (aka "smellable") web began 10 years ago. In other, more real ways, not so much. How many of you are able to smell your favorite websites today? Of course, among all the protocols and basic hardware required of modern computers, the ability to produce smell never quite earned a spot in the spec sheet. Too bad, maybe, as smells are powerful triggers in our brains.
I remember way back in 1999 when I worked for a now-defunct dot-com startup, as we suffered endless PowerPoint pitch sessions with folks looking to do business with us. One company was DigiScents, makers of the iSmell. Yes, it was seriously called the iSmell. Perhaps that is why DigiScents' website is now a blog, and not a very updated one at that. It could also be that only a few people wanted to smell the web. PC World Magazine (whose karmic retribution may be going completely virtual) called iSmell one of the 25 worst tech devices of all time way back in 2006, and since then the technology has fallen into obscurity. Sad, as in 2001 they seemed to be making all the right moves. Unfortunately I don't think people wanted to pay $200 for a USB device that made smells, no matter how "rich" the web experience could become. That's probably still true.
Or has it? I may be one of the small percentage of people actually wanting this technology, but I find it strange that we demand better graphics for games, louder and more realistic sounds, even exploring force feedback systems to immerse ourselves in online worlds, but we leave the powerful sense of smell alone. It could be that most games would smell pretty terrible (gunpowder and guts don't mix well with Cheetos and Red Bull), or it could be that people just haven't thought about it that much. NTT appears to be the only company thinking about this now, and all I've seen commercially available are some phones that stink.
And now, for your Moment of Zen: the Olfactory Transmission Protocol page from 1997.Read | Permalink | Email this | Comments