An Update to Smell-O-Vision

The Lempert Report
May 22, 2023

On today’s Bullseye – if you were a kid in the 50s and 60s - the way I was - you'll probably remember all the hype over what was being called the next generation of moviegoing. First there was AromaRama then came Smell-O-Vision followed by Odorama and Aroma-Scope. AromaRama and Smell-O-Vision used, what was for the time, cutting edge technology that would release particular aromas during the course of a movie that would add another layer of excitement to the experience. Neither really worked that well as the machinery was noisy and made a hissing noise when the aroma was released. In some cases there were tubes that ran under the seats to distribute the aroma and in other cases there were single machines that were placed at the back of the theater and the aromas weren't evenly spread throughout the theater. So depending on where you sat you might be overwhelmed with the fragrance of, for example, warm bread coming out of the oven, or not get even a whiff.

Then in 1981 director John Waters released his cult film Polyester and audience members were given scratch and sniff cards - each card had numbers 1 through 8 and when the number showed up on screen you then scratched that number to release that aroma.There were others who tried the same technique as Waters used for some kids TV shows, in the mid 1980s MTV tried it with their movie Scent of Mystery, then again in 2003 with the movie Rugrats Go Wild and then in one installment of the Spy Kids movie. We just keep trying to solve the problem and stimulate all 5 senses. Disneyland's It's Tough to Be a Bug movie releases a stinky odor coinciding with a stink bug when it appears on screen. Other Disney attractions release pie scents, orange blossom scent, pine forest scent, sea air fragrances, grass scent and cherry blossom scents. If you waited long enough on line to take the Monsters, Inc Mike & Sully to the Rescue ride you are treated to a ginger scented sushi house. The list goes on and on for those who have tried to add aromas to enhance our movie going experience.

And now fast forward to AromaPlayer - a neck worn dispenser that releases scents that match the mood of the video that is being played. The Japanese tech startup Aromajoin says that the palm sized device can switch scents instantly without any residual aroma. Just download the AromaPlayer app on Google Chrome. You start with a YouTube link then you can add the aroma you wish on the video's time line to set up what they say is the perfect smell, timing and duration. The AromaShooter is available to both consumers and web developers and has hundreds of different scents available-the device has a holder for the different scents cartridges. It's similar to the ink cartridges for your computer printer. The Aroma Shooter first suctions ambient air, then the air passes through the sent particles released from the cartridge and then sends the scent directly to the users nose. Maybe this iteration will finally take hold? Or are we doomed to spend the next 50 years with people still trying to get their noses involved in every digital experience? For me, in a movie theater, I still like the aroma of freshly buttered popped popcorn.