To the Japanese, wrapping a gift well can be as meaningful as the gift itself, elevating the simple act of wrapping to an art that is in itself a visual gift. So, not surprisingly, Japanese scientists are delving into a way to make paper even more artful by making it smell like the image it displays.
Specifically, Kenichi Okada and his team from Tokyo's Keio University are developed a technology that hopes to recreate the aromas of objects you've just printed. While scratch-and-sniff technology isn't new or even novel, Okada's team is tackling the more trying task of syncing scents with pictures.
The group, which is presenting its project at the Association for Computing Machinery's Multimedia conference going on now in Florence, Italy, gutted an off-the-shelf Canon inkjet printer and turned it into an general-purpose "olfactory display" that ejects small drops of scent rather than ink.
In tests with the "scent jet," they found that a 100-millisecond burst of smell would dissipate in two human breaths, allowing for different aromas to be activated quickly. Fortunately, the scientists experimented with pleasant scents--apple, cinnamon, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, mint, and vanilla smells--though there does certainly seem to be potential for some unpleasantness here.
The group is looking at applications beyond entertainment, though plenty of work still needs to be done before working olfactory printers adorn the average desk. Still, if this innovation does get within sniffing distance of success, I'd love to see what the printer would make of "Smells Like Teen Spirit."