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Olly: The Smell-O-Internet we never knew we needed

Internet is a powerful tool for disseminating information, communication, entertainment, education and much more. One thing the Internet has not conquered, at least not yet, is smell.

If you’re currently struggling with HTML5, CSS3, jQuery and whatever else web-tech thing you’re working on, get ready to add some kind of code for smell as well.

Olly is a creation of the research team Foundry at Mint Digital. It’s apparently three months in the making and the team calls it “the web connected smelly robot!”

Plastic box connected with USB

Olly is a small plastic box that you connect to your computer via USB and it can receive events and emit smells based on what it’s being told. There’s a pull-out tray at the back of the Olly in to which the source of the scent can be put, so there’s only one scent at a time. You can however stack multiple Ollys on top of one another, thereby potentially creating more complex scents.

Just imagine having your own Olly-farm in your office!

Picture courtesy of ollyfactory.com.

You can’t yet buy Olly as the team is working on how to mass produce it but as soon as the instructions are available you can build one yourself.

Not the first one

After reading about Olly we thought surely this can’t be the first device of its kind and we were right.

We found a series of devices that do appear to work in a similar way to the Olly. Like the Sense-simile transmission machine, which “reproduces smells and flavors using a cylindrical housing smell and flavor cartridges.” It can be “activated from a remote location over a standard telephone line or accessed through a computer over a modem.”

Sense-simile transmission machine

There’s also the Fragrance emitter for use with internet. It is “able to emit various kinds of fragrance stored in vessels according to the command sent by a frequency detecter which is used to search for a specific web site.”

Fragrance emitter

Think of smelly commands

With the Olly or similar device, what kind of commands can you think of that you’d like to embed in your web pages? We will get you started with a few suggestions (we’re hoping these will be part of HTML6, but we digress):

  • Why not use <smell id=”sandy_beach”> for a calm view of a small hut on a deserted beach? You can hear the waves roll in, even see how clear the water is, and now you can also smell the salt in the air as the sun heats up your face. This would be great for a travel site.
  • Add that extra je ne sais quoi to your <smell id=”farmville”> experience, whether it’s plowing your fields or tending to your animals.
  • A cooking or baking site could add another dimension to the experience it offers users. Like <smell id=”gingerbread”> when someone is looking at a recipe for making cookies for the holidays.
  • And, of course, if fart apps became so popular on iPhone, why not create a web page app with real smell using <smell id=”fart”>? Would that be as popular as the iPhone apps? We doubt it.


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  1. [...] Un aspecto fundamental del desarrollo de las tecnologías es la manera en la que interactuamos con ellas. No para qué sirven o cómo cambian nuestras vidas, sino físicamente cómo las manipulamos y controlamos a través de nuestras manos, ojos o mente. De la misma manera la forma en que recibimos retroalimentación sobre lo que está pasando es un tema relativamente inexplorado que en gran medida se ha reducido a ver imágenes en una pantalla (o, recientemente, a oler lo que está pasando en el mundo virtual). [...]

  2. [...] Un aspecto fundamental del desarrollo de las tecnologías es la manera en la que interactuamos con ellas. No para qué sirven o cómo cambian nuestras vidas, sino físicamente cómo las manipulamos y controlamos a través de nuestras manos, ojos o mente. De la misma manera la forma en que recibimos retroalimentación sobre lo que está pasando es un tema relativamente inexplorado que en gran medida se ha reducido a ver imágenes en una pantalla (o, recientemente, a oler lo que está pasando en el mundo virtual). [...]