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Technology that smells

Alex Christie

9 January 2009

Creating an engaging website is always the Experience Design team's goal. In the offline world, marketers and merchandisers know that the more senses that they can positively effect in the shopping process the better. The online world presents a bit more of a challenge. Visual is the main focus and audio can be utilised but it is not often done very well. There has been experimentation with tactile and olfactory ("iSmell") technologies, but again, the success and benefit has been very limited.

The military has always been very good at taking advantage of technology so it is interesting, but not surprising, that they are utilising simulated olfactory stimuli to help with training troops.

Simulation is an effective method of preparing troops for the various new environments and stimuli that they will have to be prepared for when stationed abroad. Until recently, the options available  for olfactory simulation were inefficient due to cost and size of equipment. This is changing and the research is getting interesting.

Scents have a strong impact on our association to events and places, so there is an emotional response to smell. While it is not likely that your average ecommerce site will soon be taking advantage of the technology, it would not be surprising to see it become a part of gaming soon.

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