Manoj Kasichainula (
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 17:25:31 -0500

AFAICT, this is not a joke... It is armageddon. I'm curious
what the variety of smells they'll be able to replicate. Do smells
work like colors, with primary and secondary smells. Blah.
And is up.

Think The Internet Stinks? Try This

By Andrew Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - If you think the Internet is in your face
already, you haven't smelled anything yet.

In a high-tech twist on the old ``scratch-and-sniff'' concept, a new
company announced plans Wednesday to bring smells to the Internet with
``scent'' software and a plug-in device that buffets Web surfers with

Never mind that ``Aroma-Rama'' and its smelly ilk crashed and burned
in American movie theaters in the 1950s. In an era when the Internet
increasingly dominates the sights and sounds of entertainment, can
smell be far behind? Not according to the founders of DigiScents, Inc.

``If we can find out the essence of a biological smell and make a
profile of that smell, we should be able to digitize it and broadcast
it,'' DigiScents President Dexster Smith told Reuters in an interview.

``We really feel we are in the ground floor of a new industry and art
form. It is going to span a number of areas, entertainment,
e-commerce, advertising and education.''

Think this has the slight reek of a hoax about it? Well, guess again.
Smith and his partner, Joel Bellenson, are proven high-tech
entrepreneurs, having founded Pangea Systems Inc., an industry leader
in providing software and technology to biotechnology and
pharmaceutical companies.

Their new venture has also earned the ultimate kudos for California's
computer digerati -- a scratch-and-sniff cover story in the coming
issue of Wired magazine.

``If this technology takes off, it's gonna launch the next Web
revolution,'' Wired raved about the new product.


Smith said the pair got the idea of wiring the Internet for smell
during a vacation in Miami's vibrant South Beach.

``We were overwhelmed by the perfumes that people were wearing, all
the sensory input,'' Smith said. ``We thought: This is a biological
phenomenon, this is in our domain. We should be able to understand
this and build a company out of it.''

They quickly got building and soon the Oakland, California-based
DigiScents had the concept down.

First, there is the ``iSmell,'' a plug-in computer accessory that will
contain a basic palette of scented oils from which a bouquet of
different smells can be created.

Functioning like the MP3 players that download music from the
Internet, the iSmell will take its orders from DigiScent's
''ScentStream'' software, which will translate online digital cues for
different smells into specific orders for the portable perfume

To ensure odor authenticity, DigiScent has created a ``Scent
Registry,'' a digital index of thousands of scents that the company
will license to developers to integrate into games, Web sites,
advertisements, movies and music.

To round it out, the company plans to create a ``Snortal'' on the Web
to give people a chance to sniff for themselves.

There is real science behind all this. Bellenson, who once ran a
Stanford University lab specializing in DNA synthesis, has drawn up
models for the way odor molecules bind with the some 10 million
odor-detecting neurons on a human nose, a step toward establishing the
Scent Registry that will underpin the concept.

DigiScent's founders hope that by licensing their scent spectrum, they
will create a world of smells for the Internet generation -- perfumes
you can smell online, computer games with the whiff of the jungle or
the tang of jet fuel, movies that give audiences the scents of an
autumn bonfire.

``The sense of smell is closely tied to memory and emotion, making
scent a powerful way to reinforce ideas,'' Bellenson said. ``If a
picture is worth a thousand words, a scent is worth a thousand


Not that any of this is new, really. The American film industry
pioneered olfactory entertainment in the late 1950s with
``Aroma-Rama'' and ``Smell-O-Vision,'' pumping smells through theater
vents or releasing them from beneath audience seats.

In 1981, filmmaker John Waters launched his movie ''Polyester'' with a
scratch-and-sniff card dubbed ``Odorama.'' But American noses remained
aloof to the idea that smell could be part of a fun evening out.

Will DigiScents succeed where Smell-O-Vision failed? Smith and
Bellenson are confident that Internet users, ever hungry for fresh
stimuli, will embrace the iSmell.

``One of the big problems with the past has been implementation,''
Smith said. ``If you are asking someone to do scratch and sniff, it is
not going to be as compelling as if it is automated.''

Manoj Kasichainula - manojk at io dot com -
"The deadliest bullshit is odorless and transparent." -- William Gibson