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Coming soon to a cinema near you: smells

There's something new in the air for movie goers

(Keystone Archive)

The smell of the jungle and the scent of fragrant perfume could soon be wafting through a cinema near you thanks to advances in technology which can create odours and aromas on demand.

The Swiss flavours and fragrances group, Givaudan, already has the ability to deliver any smell a director could dream up. The company is researching how best to use people's sense of smell to heighten the movie-going experience.

"The most difficult thing is to bring the aroma to a level where it smells really good and then get rid of it immediately to be ready for the next one," Givaudan spokesman, Peter Wullschleger, told swissinfo

"In the sixties and seventies, people tried to make scented cinema. The problem was that they simply blew fragrance into a huge room. When they came to the next scene when they wanted to have another smell, it was impossible to get rid of the old one.

Cut to the scent

"We are investigating real scented cinema where you can have different smells from one scene to the next. This requires highly sophisticated devices to bring the smell to the nose of the spectator and in the minimum quantity, so that seconds later you can have the new smell."

Options include tiny dispensers built into the armrests of each seat or in the back of the chair in front.

"Getting rid of a smell before you introduce another one is the challenge," said Wullschleger. "One idea is that you could use a non-toxic helium gas which is lighter than air so the smell would go up to the ceiling where it would be evacuated. The quantity of fragrance we intend to spray is so small that it shouldn't be a major problem."

Other applications

The company's virtual aroma synthesiser will mix chemicals to produce the desired smell. The same technology could be used to change the smell at home, in the car or on the metro.

"There are lots of others situations where you could use fragrance to make people feel comfortable," said Wullschleger.

Givaudan, the world number two in the business of adding taste and smells to food, drinks and consumer products, is based in Geneva.

Givaudan researchers float in balloons above the rainforest to gather new aromas and have won several Fifis -- the fragrance world's Oscars -- for scenting many high-profile perfumes.

by Vincent Landon


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