Smell before you buy – over the internet

Technology 1 June 2005

Aldous Huxley would be proud. Japanese phone company NTT is developing technology that will let you smell before you buy over the internet.

In Brave New World, no trip to the “feelies” – cinemas where the seats give touch feedback – is complete without “scent-organ accompaniment”. Smells, such as a whiff of pig dung to signify discord, or musk during sex scenes, waft across Huxley’s audience.

NTT’s plan is to provide a smell generator that blends stored chemicals to concoct a wide variety of fragrances in response to a “make this smell” command over the net. The command will be activated when a surfer’s mouse cursor hovers over a picture of the product. An aromatherapy firm is set to be NTT’s first “smellycommunications” customer.