Coming to TV and cell screens of the future: a sense of smell? Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, say it is possible. They've just published a paper discussing their two year study in which they say electronic devices like TV's and phones can be outfitted with a compact device able to potentially generate thousands of different odors.
“For example, if people are eating pizza, the viewer smells pizza coming from a TV or cell phone,” said Sungho Jin, professor in the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and NanoEngineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “And if a beautiful lady walks by, they smell perfume. Instantaneously generated fragrances or odors would match the scene shown on a TV or cell phone, and that’s the idea."
Advertisers across the country are no doubt salivating at the thought, but what effect will this new assault on our senses have on our health? One only has to look at research on other scented projects to form an educated guess.
Dr. Anne Steinemann is a scientist at the University of Washington who studies scented products. Her lab analyzed 25 "commonly" used scented products like air fresheners, personal care products, laundry soap and cleaning supplies.
"All of them emitted chemicals that are classified as toxic or hazardous under federal laws," she says in a CBS news report. "These chemicals are ones that can damage the brain, the lungs, the central nervous system and cause cancer. Some of these chemicals have no safe exposure level, that means even one molecule is not safe to inhale."
So it's true that while we don't yet know the exact exposure level and chemical make-up of a scent-generating TV, can it be very different from a vanilla cookie air freshener or a papaya shampoo? The principle will likely be similar --- a chemical or mix of chemicals used to generate a scent. In this case the authors suggest:
"....an aqueous solution such as ammonia, which forms an odorous gas when heated through a thin metal wire by an electrical current...as the heat and odor pressure build, a tiny compressed hole is opened, releasing the odor."
That doesn't exactly sound like something we should be breathing more than 34 hours per week - yes, that's the average amount of TV time logged by the typical American last year.
With indoor air quality already up to 5 times more polluted that outdoor air, why introduce more pollutants? We think the idea smells a bit off.
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