What the nose knows

Mar 9th 2006
From The Economist print edition
Smell technology: Technology can manipulate and reproduce sight and sound with amazing fidelity. But what about smell?

WHEN it comes to reproducing sights and sounds, technology has made great strides in the past century. It is now possible to buy a high-definition television that produces an image almost indistinguishable from an aquarium or the view through a picture window; the best surround-sound systems can reproduce a concert performance so that it sounds just as it did in real life. While technologists have concentrated on sight and sound, however, smell has been left behind. Perhaps that is not surprising, since smell is, for most people, of lesser importance. But sometimes smell can provide information that other senses cannot. And that potentially opens the door to a range of new technologies.