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Does the Internet smell?

Answer: Not yet.

You can’t smell the food in that review you’re reading on Yelp, but one day you might be able to.

Researchers at the Imagineering Institute in Malaysia are working on creating “digital smell.” One day they want users to be able to smell what they’re seeing when they use their digital devices. Right now, though, the process involves putting a cable up the user's nose in order to stimulate certain neurons in the nasal passage.

In order to get people to think they were smelling something, the research team needed to deliver electric currents to the olfactory epithelium cells about 7 centimeters above and behind the nostrils. Most of the volunteers reported fragrant or chemical smells, although some also reported fruity, sweet, toasted minty, and woody odors.

The next step is to find a less invasive way to administer the electricity, such as a much smaller cable or by skipping the nose entirely and stimulating the brain instead.



Kate is a senior copy editor in Northern California. She holds a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in professional writing from the University of California, Davis.
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