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Scientists Praise Developments in Smell Technology

2017-10-10

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[00:00.00]
  • Would you buy a car that released calming smells into the air when you are stuck in heavy traffic?
  • [00:07.61]
  • Would you buy a robot that smells like a human being?
  • [00:12.55]
  • Scientists suggest that new technology means people will soon be using devices like these in their daily lives.
  • [00:22.54]
  • The British Science Festival took place recently in Brighton, England.
  • [00:29.36]
  • At the event, researchers from the University of Sussex demonstrated some of the technology that might be coming soon.
  • [00:39.58]
  • Many people have seen the three-dimensional computer-made environments of virtual reality, known as VR.
  • [00:49.90]
  • Now these virtual worlds will not just look and sound real.
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  • Researchers have created VR environments that even smell like the real thing.
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  • With the new technology, users open a virtual door and step into a new environment, like a rainforest.
  • [01:13.97]
  • After they enter this virtual world, special equipment releases forest-like smells into the air to make the experience seem more real.
  • [01:26.01]
  • Suzanne Fisher-Murray saw the technology being demonstrated at the British Science Festival.
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  • She told VOA, “It is a really immersive experience that you have because you’re exploring this environment and you have smells … with it.”
  • [01:45.03]
  • Smell technology has been tried in the past.
  • [01:49.03]
  • In the United States, Smell-O-Vision was designed to provide smells during the showing of a movie.
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  • The Smell-O-Vision system was briefly popular in the 1960s.
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  • Now, University of Sussex researcher Emanuela Maggioni says it is close to becoming popular again.
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  • “The connection with emotions, memories, and … the sense of smell,” Maggioni said.
  • [02:20.49]
  • “It is incredible what we can do with technology.”
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  • The uses for smell technology are not just limited to films and the performing arts.
  • [02:33.11]
  • Researchers also demonstrated a computer program where users could imagine themselves driving a car.
  • [02:41.23]
  • The system included a special smell-spraying device.
  • [02:46.73]
  • Dmitrijs Dmitrenko is one of the researchers working on this project.
  • [02:53.16]
  • “In this demonstration,” he said, “we wanted to deliver the smell of lavender every time the driver exceeds the speed limit.
  • [03:04.22]
  • We chose lavender because it’s a very calming smell.”
  • [03:08.74]
  • Scientists are experimenting with using smell instead of sounds or image-based alerts on telecommunications equipment.
  • [03:19.64]
  • And businesses are already using smell to influence people’s behavior.
  • [03:26.15]
  • “Not only … in stores ... But on the other side, you can create and stimulate impulse buying,” Maggioni said.
  • [03:36.33]
  • “So you’re in a library and you smell coffee and actually you are unconsciously having the need to drink a coffee.”
  • [03:45.77]
  • She adds that the sense of smell is important in human communication and relationships.
  • [03:53.17]
  • For example, when men smell tears, it reduces levels of testosterone, a natural hormone in their bodies.
  • [04:03.14]
  • Men then show greater feelings of understanding with other people.
  • [04:09.03]
  • That natural process has uses in new technology, Maggioni says.
  • [04:15.83]
  • For example, she believes it could help people trust robots more if the robots smelled like humans.
  • [04:24.68]
  • I’m ­Pete Musto.
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