Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Smell-O-Vision Has Pleasant Aroma For San Diego Researcher

— Sight and sound TV seems so last century. It seems the future of enhanced sensory entertainment could soon be smell-o-vision.

Movies like the “Scent of a Woman,” or a pizza commercial, can be seen and smelled according to Sungho Jin, Ph.D., a San Diego professor who was approached by Samsung Electronics to develop a smell-o-vision device.

Jin, a researcher at UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering said he and his graduate students developed a prototype than can emit up to 10,000 odors.

It works like this: Tiny compartments inside the device contain scented liquids that spray into the air when triggered by a preprogramed electrical signal.

“We send electrical current to the chambers and that heats up the interior. When the temperature goes up so does the internal chamber pressure which pushes the vapor out of the device and into the air,” explained Jin.

He also said the palm-sized aroma emitter is adaptable and mobile.

“The device can be attached to a TV or made small enough to be on a cell phone. It can also be placed on the walls inside a movie theater,” said Jin.

When the liquids dry up or the smells fade, the chamber is replaced like an ink cartridge on your printer, said Jin.

A few details still need to be worked out, like how to cleanse the air in between fragrance spurts. And, overcoming smell-o-vision’s stinky past will also take some effort.

Olfactory junkies may recall the idea of smell-TV made Time magazine’s list of the Top 100 Worst Ideas of the Century in 1999.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.