I often get sad when I remember that there’s hardly a way to realize the duration of the present, but it’s comforting to know that we have books, photography, audio recording and video recording as very tangible ways to bring the present back.
There’s however one thing lacking in these technologies to relive the past or to tell stories, and I think it could be one of the most powerful ways of telling a story, smell. We all have at some moment smelled something in particular and have that smell help us vividly remember a moment 10 years ago like if it was today.
I keep thinking on how to do it, and I want to share an idea I had last night after thinking about it for a few minutes.
At first I thought, is there a way to quantify or mix chemicals to produce smells out of basic components, the same way we can do it with color (RGB or other schemes)? hmm, maybe, maybe not, I think there’s too many chemicals involved, so scratch that. However, I believe that a smell, once it hits your brain, it’s nothing more but a series of electrical impulses sent to a specific area of the brain which is in charge of making you smell something.
We need a sensor, our noses, and then that information, somehow must be transformed to electrical impulses, and I think this is the foundation to create a device to record smells.
First we’d need to have some sort of electronic nose, whoever could build this will have to take a serious look on how our nose detects smell in the air. I suppose we’ll have iteration after iteration of this device until it can record up scents not even humans can detect (this reminds me of mp3 and how it just ignores a lot we can’t hear).
Then, once you can record this information, the problem is… how do you get it in the brains of an audience, I don’t think we’d attach anything to our noses and have something mix substances to reproduce a smell, that’d be ridiculous, instead, we need to send an electrical signal to our brain so that the smell can be interpreted and smelt, without using our nose. So I suppose in theory, there will be at some point in history a device that can broadcast brainwaves to a lot of people on a movie theater audience, or on your home tv.
The applications would be awesome… Imagine playing Gears of War 8 with smell, the battlefield experience would be so much more engaging if you could smell the smoke, the lead, the blood, …
After that we’ll probably also figure out a way to record and broadcast weather conditions, and make us feel heat, or cold, or wind, all while sitting in front of our console, or on a movie theater.
If for some crazy reason you start developing this technology, or you know of someone doing it, please let me know, it’d just be awesome to know that this is happening during my lifetime.