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Brits Still Working on Stinky Email 356

prostoalex writes "British Internet provider Telewest Broadband is testing a system, which allows people to attach specific smells to their e-mail. It works with air freshener cartridge that one plugs into PC. The technology is developed by a US-based company Trisenx, which features the products and pricing on its Web site. A 20-channel serial port device costs $269, the same price for optional software package allowing the user to author specific smells. The replacement cartridges are $48 each." They're hardly the first attempt at adding smell to the computer experience. Digiscent didn't work out so well.
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Brits Still Working on Stinky Email

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  • by bob670 ( 645306 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:44PM (#8340770)
    think what the porn industry could do with this?
  • Spam (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:44PM (#8340774) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I don't want to know what sort of smell would be associated with penis enlargement spam...
    • Re:Spam (Score:3, Funny)

      by devnullkac ( 223246 )
      The same as all other unsolicited commercial email: canned spiced ham aroma.
    • Re:Spam (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      We should buy one of these devices for Darl McBride.

      Then we could all find ways to help him test it out.

      On an unrelated note, what does cyanide smell like again? Almonds?
    • Re:Spam (Score:2, Funny)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
      The scary thing is that the people who actually buy that stuff and keep the spammers in business* just might like that smell!

      * Yes, I know that many spammers make money by spamming-for-hire for an endless supply of idiots who don't.

    • Re:Spam (Score:5, Funny)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @02:04PM (#8341061) Homepage Journal
      "Personally, I don't want to know what sort of smell would be associated with penis enlargement spam..."

      Must... resist... yo mama.... joke....
  • Money... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DRUNK_BEAR ( 645868 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:44PM (#8340779)
    For smelling, the price stinks too! ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:53PM (#8340919)
      Why on earth would someone want to pay $250 so that they can smell their spam mail? Come on people, someone answer me that? Furthermore, I am troubled by a quote in the article: Telewest says its "scent dome" could cost around 250 and would only work with a high-speed, broadband connection.. So what they are saying is that the unit can produce up to 60 smells (that's 6 bits of data), and I need a broadband connection to get that data? I don't buy it. (pardon the pun)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:44PM (#8340781)
    Great. Anybody who wants to can send a fart to Microsoft. I can imagine Redmond would very soon start to stink to high heaven.

    What smell would you send to Darl?

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by E-Rock ( 84950 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:45PM (#8340783) Homepage
    Am I just missing it, or is there no possible use for such a device? What would it do that anyone would pay $300 for one?
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Boing ( 111813 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:53PM (#8340916)
      What would it do that anyone would pay $300 for one?

      Well, I vaguely remember scientific studies indicating that human memory of scent is much stronger than any other sense, and with better retention. Theoretically, given enough resolution (enough "different" smells), you could odorize threads of messages to be the same, so that when reading new messages on the same topic, the previous content comes to mind more rapidly and accurately.

      Chance of this actually being a practical feature? Slim-to-nonesville, population: None.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:53PM (#8340925) Homepage Journal
      Well, it would be kind of interesting to add a smell factor to first-person-shooters. "Look out, I smell bad guys", or "I think there's some food over that way."

      Artistically, an accompanying scent would serve the same purpose as a soundtrack: to set a mood. The smell of smoke and ozone would be a cool accompaniment to an FPS. Or putting a bit of perfume on a love letter: a distinctive aroma can be highly evocative.

      Admittedly, I'm not paying $300 for either of those things.
      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jpmkm ( 160526 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @02:11PM (#8341133) Homepage
        If something in a game triggered a smell then this device would release some aroma. You move to a different part of the game, but your room still smells like the previous part of the game because you move through the game much faster than the aroma disapates. When you go to a different part of the game another smell comes out. Soon your room is filled with a combination of smells which tell you nothing. This device is stupid and pointless. I have absolutely no desire for my computer to produce smells. That's just dumb. If these devices are ever actually released, I can see every one of them showing up in a thrift shop in about ten years.
        • Re:Why? (Score:3, Funny)

          by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
          The device that I am familiar with uses a small fan to drive the odor flow, and it has a neutralizer which cleans the device between smells. The actual amount of chemical is nigh-nonexistent. The amount of odor is pretty minimal. And if you move through the game much faster than the aroma dissipates then the game is poorly designed. It should not be possible to do that.

          Smell could add a lot to certain games, especially simulators. For instance when your transmission or differentials get thrashed in a rall

      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Funny)

        by NanoGator ( 522640 )
        "Well, it would be kind of interesting to add a smell factor to first-person-shooters. "Look out, I smell bad guys", or "I think there's some food over that way."

        "Frrrpbpbpbp... DAMN! I just gave my position away!"
      • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Metal_Demon ( 694989 )
        This could actually be kind of cool for games. Of course we all know everybody will just start getting spam selling spam that smell like...spam. The only thing this will get used for is to try and get people to buy food online (no thanks) and to send people fart-mail. Like you said deffinately not worth $300 for food related spam and fart jokes.
      • Re:Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DunbarTheInept ( 764 )

        Well, it would be kind of interesting to add a smell factor to first-person-shooters.

        Do you realize what a room full of people who died in a gunfight would smell like?
  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:45PM (#8340787) Homepage
    Eh, this is really outside their area of expertise. They should pass this problem off to the French and instead work on making email flavorless and rubbery.

    Je blague, mes amis...

    • Eh, this is really outside their area of expertise. They should pass this problem off to the French and instead work on making email flavorless and rubbery.

      I was going to point out that British food is really pretty good, and its poor reputation stems from the very low quality of ingredients and food shortages suffered during the second World War and for decades afterwards. But man, that's a funny, funny email, so I think I'll just sit here and LMAO instead.

      Thanks, that really brightened my day.
  • Great (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just what I want when I receive an email from rms is to *smell* him too.
  • This technology would be more useful in France.
  • Brings a whole need perspective on what is possible with tubgirl.
  • I'd hate having to smell hundreds of cans of SPAM each day doing through and deleting junk email. ...unless if I was hungry that day..
  • Horrible Idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DRue ( 152413 )
    Who would want their computer spraying smelly stuff, whenever it felt like it - whether the smell was good or bad. I don't think it would ever smell good, anyway - it would always smell artificial - just like all the air fresheners that are supposed to smell like flowers. Too perfumy for me.
  • to reply to all those spammy emails with the smell set to:

  • No way. (Score:5, Funny)

    by nate1138 ( 325593 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:46PM (#8340812)
    Part of the beauty of email is that I don't _have_ to smell someone to communicate with them. Being as I work in software development, this is a big plus.
  • by bad enema ( 745446 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:46PM (#8340813)
    The sense of smell is perhaps the most diverse when it comes to preferences. Just think of all the colognes/perfumes out there that end up delivering the opposite effect. Unless you know exactly what the user likes, giving them a scented email may look creative but runs the risk at the same time of offending the receiver.
    • Things are even more nuanced when it comes to colognes/perfumes. A substantial portion of how it smells is related to how the fragrance interacts with your body chemistry. It is fairly unique to each individual. What smells great on one person can be downright stinky on another.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And no expensive cartridges to replace. Anyone up for Broccoli and Egg Salad?
  • This is great, sniff your inbox to find out whats in it.

    Smell like womans perfume? Its porn spam

    Smell like crotch? It's penis enlargement spam.
  • by xC0000005 ( 715810 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:46PM (#8340820) Homepage
    Porn Spam would have a very specific smell to it. If you could do the same thing with web pages, a lot of people would get in trouble when the wife went sniffing around the computer.

    If we could do this with packet level traffic it would give a whole new meaning to a network sniff (Yes sir, I suspected the router because it smelled like the homeless man outside your building.)
  • Video Games (Score:3, Interesting)

    by danknight ( 570145 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:46PM (#8340825)
    While this is a Whacky technology, it could ad alot VR games like quake or Half-Life or even D&D style games.
  • or does this sound like something the Japanese [] would invent?
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
    Just beacuse you can, doesnt mean you should.. geesh!
  • by syntap ( 242090 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:48PM (#8340856)
    Hmm... send that fresh bakery smell to your Atkins buddies.
  • So, if I get an email from France is can smell like France. Can we get some kind of smell filter like a spam filter?
  • As a novelty this would be interesting and I could see how it could be used to enhance an email. For example, if I am sending my wife an email I can attach the scent of roses to make it a bit more romantic. Or, if I am sending an invitation for dinner I suppose I could attach the scent of some sort of food such as bread baking? Like most technologies I suppose it will get better over time.

    Take care!


  • by gid ( 5195 )
    I love how all of their examples uses are things like "it could be used by supermarkets to tempt people with the smell of fresh bread or by holiday companies seeking to stir up images of sun-kissed beaches."

    Explain to me why I'd want to use up my $48 dollar stink cartidge (heh) on spam?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...just like chicken.
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:50PM (#8340885) Journal
    I love the picture of the "typical user" in the article. She's got a nice portable laptop, plus this huge aroma thing that looks like it's too bulky to fit in any laptop bag. Did she bring the laptop and connect the device in case she got a smelly email? Or did she have to go and get the device when she realized she had gotten a smelly email?

    Plus, she's eating - her taste/smell senses are already being used. So, now she's eating musk-perfume-flavored stawberries, and we're expected to believe that this is enjoyable? Pretty picture, yes. But poor marketing.

    Also: "Telewest says its "scent dome" could cost around 250 and would only work with a high-speed, broadband connection." -- WTF? The device produces only 60 smells - so is 6 bits now too big to send over a slow modem?
    • Also: "Telewest says its "scent dome" could cost around 250 and would only work with a high-speed, broadband connection." -- WTF? The device produces only 60 smells - so is 6 bits now too big to send over a slow modem?
      I think it probably only works on a TELEWEST broadband other words, you have to use their service to get the smells. So it really has nothing to do with bandwidth i bet.
    • Each bit is encoded as a 10Mb video of a zero or a one. Isn't it obvious?

    • I was thinking about that last bit when I posted before but I didn't want to mix it with my other post. It looks like they're just trying to get more customers by adding stupid and useless restrictions that tie it to their system and nobody else's. I mean, you could just make some sort of open source implementation of it if the device itself could be reverse engineered:

      *** BEGIN SMELL BLOCK ***
      *** END SMELL BLOCK ***

      Yep... a lot of bandwidth that would use up. (The actual
  • Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how long it'll take our resident Nintendo troll [] to latch onto this thread with his amazing Smell-o-Vision []? =)
  • Bad email (Score:5, Funny)

    by JediTrainer ( 314273 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:54PM (#8340926)
    Great, as if your idiot uncle wasn't bad enough at family get-togethers, you can now look forward to emails that read:

    Pull my finger
  • new slogan (Score:3, Funny)

    by nuckin futs ( 574289 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:54PM (#8340928)
    sex smells!
  • stinks too!
  • "seafood"! (Score:2, Funny)

    by MoFoQ ( 584566 )
    great, now a majority of email would have a fishy smell....of course, dunno what those "re-finance" spams will smell like though and I don't want to think about what a "viagra" spam would smell like....

    btw, this is meant to be a funny....

  • This "technology" will die sooner or later. Have anyone heard of "smell-o-rama?" Scratch smelly paper while watching a movie? In some theaters smell was delivered via air-conditioner/duct. This type of attempts have already made at least a few times in the film business and they all failed to survive. Who would bother buying smell cartridge for emailing?

    Next variant of MyDoom virus will cause a smell of your armpits. How exciting our future can be. I'm so thrilled.
  • Wow, this sure gives new meaning to the term "vaperware."
  • Digital smells (Score:3, Informative)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:57PM (#8340980)
    We've had jokes about smell-o-vision for about as long as we've had television. I guess the modern update is applying smells to e-mail. The consumer applications are a bit questionable, but there is an interesting scientific level below this...

    In order to transfer a smell from place A to place B, we need a notation scheme that can combine various levels of a small number of "elemental" smells, just like RGB are the elemental colors of light and CMYK are the elemental colors of pigment.

    Once there are devices that can take a smell, store it in the digital notation, and then reproduce it, the bottom is going to fall out purfume industry quick...
  • They had a fire yestreday which took out their cable TV service. If I had had one of these devices I could have smelled it and not have had to spend 15 minutes in a telephone queue!
  • A 20-channel serial port device costs $269

    Apart from the horrendous price tag and the questionable need for suche a device...

    ... what the hell were they thinking, using legacy ports only? It's not like aiming at an ever shrinking customer base (laptops or Macs come to mind as machines w/o legacy ports) was bad business... ;p
  • Drug Dome? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:59PM (#8340996)
    How about sending your loved ones a quick hit of LSD, or a tab of e, or maybe the scent of pot for a nice 'contact high' ? The new Drug Dome comes with 20 lab-quality chemical compounds which can be combined to form 60 separate drugs. Co-worker feeling a little anxious about a presentation? Email him a quaalude. Girlfriend not putting out? Send her a couple of tabs of e.

    For the record, rumors that the Drug Dome has been hacked to dispense a single blast of all 20 drugs at once are false.

    We are currently beta-testing a refillable Drug Dome, using a modified Linux kernel (Methix), the chemicals, their mixtures, and dosages can be completely customized by the end user.
    • "a single blast of all 20 drugs at once are false."
      Otherwise known as formula 51.
    • by Boing ( 111813 )
      We are currently beta-testing a refillable Drug Dome, using a modified Linux kernel

      Warning: Drug Dome (tm) configuration is for ADVANCED USERS ONLY. Hallucinogenic drugs, incorrectly configured, may cause kernel panic.

      Oh, and don't sue us, please. Drugs're'bad, mkay?

  • Flashback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cybermace5 ( 446439 ) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:59PM (#8340997) Homepage Journal
    Am I dreaming? This is like something from the dotcom boomtimes when an idea got more money for seeming wacky and apparently useless.

    Human don't use smell very much, anymore. For the most part, it's just figuring out whether the milk is OK to drink, or if the person next to you needs a bath. There are subconscious pheromonal responses, but hopefully they aren't loading this thing up with those. "Yes sir, we discovered the 'buy stuff' pheromone."

    Three hundred bucks to have a machine spray a grocery-aisle's worth of air fresheners.

    Maybe if we were as smell-focused as dogs, we'd be able to use this as a form of output. HEY! You could assign words different mixes of smells, and train your dog to delete spam!

  • RealAroma (Score:3, Informative)

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:59PM (#8341005) Homepage Journal
    Sadly, the [] site is down, but the wayback machine still has it [].

    The picture of the SmellU-SmellMe software is priceless.

    Good lord, does this really date to 1996? "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled." -- T.S. Eliot.
  • Q: How do I know that I have been infected by a virus?

    A: Depends. Win32.PukeMasterC smells like rotten food, MyFrood2 like swiss cheese..
  • This has got to be the dumbest idea I've ever heard. Seriously, I mean, what's the target market on this? How many people are clamoring for this computer ability? I can only think of three uses for this device: advertising, gross Flash cartoons, and script kiddie worms that spew out the most vile smells known to humanity. Why would I want this on my computer and why would I want to pay for the refills on top of that?

    If this were to be beneficial to anyone (and that's a big if) I'd want this unit to be

  • ... is alive and well. The iSmell bombed before its horrible name ever got used outside of media. It takes a special (as in little school bus special) sort of mentality to think that since someone else failed horribly we can do the same thing and succeed. The iSmell failed so badly that one of their scientists has been reduced to spamming in order to try and sell a novelty pseudo-science book.

    I mean, I'm all for maximum gizmoid activity, but this isn't a gizmo, it's just st00pid.
  • They can only think of two sensible uses for it, and they're both examples of spam.

    Lovely... I'm going to pay 250GBP so companies can send more effective spam!

    Yeah, so, anyway, I agree with the other 10000 posts saying this is a stupid idea.

  • Lots of good jokes here ... I'm laughing myself silly. However the serious side of scents is an interesting too; I'm sure this apparatus uses all types of artifical scents (chemicals) to produce the "proper" smells:

    "most perfumes and scented products on the market contain chemicals that don't agree with everyone's airways.[...]Individuals with allergies can develop sensitivities (which are different from allergies) to perfumes. Clinicians say their symptoms can range from tearing and sneezing to migraines

  • Imagine broadband providers requiring you to have one of these to access their service. You don't pay for it up front, they just charge you $5/month to have it, like they do with modems now. Cartridges are provided dirt cheap. Then broadband providers sell access to their customers to spammers, who pay a little bit per message to get to the broadband customers with enhanced stinky email. Providers start raking in big bucks. You become another commodity they can sell to increase profits.

    We know the whole s
  • Now, we can filter our email based on what it smells like. I propose legislation to require all spam to actually smell like SPAM. After smelling our email, we can train our bayesian filter to filter out the stuff that smells like spam.

  • If the product is as high quality as the online game [] then this will be a sure thing.

  • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @02:31PM (#8341326) Homepage
    ...and I'll bet that somebody's already working on an Emacs syntax highlighting mode that produces different smells based on C types.

    Mmmmmmm, unsigned ints....

    Maybe using string functions without bounds checking could smell really bad. Then you could really sniff out the bugs. Neat!

  • by MrNemesis ( 587188 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @03:06PM (#8341749) Homepage Journal
    ...just glue a slice of spam to your nose and be done with it.
  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Friday February 20, 2004 @03:53PM (#8342432) Homepage Journal
    Coincidentally, I'm wearing my dirty old "iSmell" swag t-shirt, as I type this. Be glad you can't smell it...

    About 5 years ago, DigiScents [] developed a product called the iSmell, which was covered by Wired Magazine []. It was even on the memoriable cover []. They hired Marc Canter [] to be their visionary spokesguru:

    In Bellenson's apartment, Marc Canter has been lying on a postmodern faux-leopard-skin couch with his eyes half closed, listening as Bellenson and Smith outline their grand vision. He rouses himself now, like a lugubrious guru, a veteran of more than half a dozen projects pushing the state of the art. He wishes to make a statement about trends that lie ahead.

    "There is a new paradigm for tools," he says. "In the old days, they were shrink-wrapped pieces of software; you sat down and read the manual and used the tool. Nowadays, the tools are free. And what we need are scalable content tools. Look at Hollywood: They take a movie and amortize the cost among multiple forms, from cable TV to toys. On the Web, we haven't been able to do that, because it's just a delivery medium. But if all the content can be decoupled" - in other words, if it can exist separately from any particular format - "I can output a low-end Web site, a medium-res CD-ROM, and a high-end broadband version, all from the same ideas. In the smell world, this means 16-pack cartridges that do only a few smells, or big systems that do thousands."

    "We expect to have low-end and high-end iSmell hardware," Smith agrees. "The low end may retail for under $200. The smell cartridges - even at the high end - will probably cost under $50." With moderate use, he guesses, they should last a few months.

    "The key, as always, is the installed base," Canter says. "But there's so many different target markets. It'll be easy to get overwhelmed. You'll need a staff of 15 people just to answer the phones. We'll do the usual things - developers' kits, conferences, seminars, T-shirts, hats, all that stuff." The prospect seems to overcome him with ennui, yet he appears convinced it will work.

    [...] "I think aesthetic disclaimers will be more important," adds Canter. "You know, when PageMaker was first released, it created a lot of really ugly pages. I'll be surprised if 10 percent of the first smell output is bearable."

    This is, after all, a totally new art form.

    "We know when the first visual art was done, in cave paintings," Canter continues. "And the first musical art consisted of tribal people beating drums. Think of all the books written about musical and visual arts since then. Now show me the library on smells."

    They even had an SDK for programming the device. I talked with them at the game developers conference about a game I was working on that might benefit from smell. They thought it would be more fun, if you could smell when The Sims needed to take a shower, pissed their pants, or set the house on fire.

    For some reason, DigiScent's iSmell Digital Scent Technology never took off.


"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"