Future Macs could sport — theoretically, at least — scent technology

How would you like a Mac with scent technology? I don’t actually expect it to happen, but some companies have looked into aromatherapy and connected media to interlace viewing experiences with interactive scent products. 

Imagine a Mac with a scent generator that can release everything from popcorn smells if you're watching a video. Or beach scents to accompany the sound of water or music.

The goal of digital scent technology is to change the interactive entertainment experience. The idea is to scent-enable movies, games, music, animation, or any digital media.

The idea of technology that tickles your olfactory senses isn't new. In the 1950s, Smell-O-Vision was a system that released an odor during the projection of a film in a movie theater so that the viewer could "smell" what was happening in the movie. Created by Hans Laube, the technology made its only appearance in the 1960 film, "Scent of Mystery." The process injected 30 odors into a movie theater's seats when triggered by the film's soundtrack.

It wasn't well received. According to a Variety review of the film, aromas were released with a distracting hissing noise and audience members in the balcony complained that the scents reached them several seconds after the action was shown on the screen. 

A more recent version of "Smell-o-Vision" is still around, however. A couple of years ago, a team from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan created a product with the same name. This Smell-o-Vision (pictured above) is a “smelling screen” that can produce odors that appear to emanate from specific areas of the screen.

Here's the description of the technology: "Instead of a one-odor-source-fits-all approach, the team’s smelling screen uses four fans positioned at the corners of the screen to create a virtual odor source that appears to come from a specific area of the display. Instead of simply blowing the odors towards the viewer -- or smeller -- the airflows generated by the fans collide together before being directed out at the viewer, so the smell appears to be coming from the screen rather than the fans.

"By adjusting the balance of the airflows, the virtual odor can be made to emanate from different regions of the display. In this way, the user can shift their head to smell different objects displayed on different parts of the screen. The airflows can even be adjusted down so that the user perceives only the odor and not the air streams themselves."

In 2007, ScenTeck Technologies released its Scratch-N-Sniff Pro product that included a System Scent Card that reacts to normal auditory sensors generated from a computer's hard drive. These sensors, once triggered, were combined with proprietary Scent Waves, and then broadcast from computer speakers, replacing the standard vibrating sound waves with a unique vibrating tone. Think of an inaudible tone that asks the brain to recognize it, not as a sound, but as a scent. The idea has yet to gain traction.

Then there was 2001's iSmell (pictured above), a "personal scent synthesizer" from DigiScents that was shaped like a shark's fine and connected to a computer's USB port. It contained a cartridge with 128 "primary odors" that could be mixed together to form a smell that was supposedly emanating from a website you were visiting or e-mail you opened. The iSmell wasn't well received.

I'd say there's a 99.9% chance that Apple has no interest in scent technology. But who knows? One of these days some third party company may develop a computer scent product that doesn't ... dare I say it? .... stink.