Telephones have existed in one form or another for about 150 years. Video calls have taken a while to get off the ground but the age of Covid has made Zoom chats commonplace.
But as yet, no-one has found a way of sending smells over long distances.
That could all change in the next couple of years if Noam Sobel gets his way.
The Israeli neurobiology professor, working at the Weizmann Institute in central Israel, has developed a “smell map” that enables him to recreate any odour from just a few basic building blocks.
He says the ability to record and transmit smells will revolutionise everything from television to takeaway menus. For example, a gardening programme could let viewers smell faraway roses, or a restaurant could advertise its dishes by how they smell.
“Now, I believe we’re just a few years away from tel-e-smell — telephones that accurately record and recreate smells,” Professor Sobel told the Times of Israel.
The technology is already working, he says: “We’ve already shown we can do this with a perfume as we have made a computer-generated odour that smelled exactly like rose, just by combining molecules.”
He explains that his team has worked out a basic “language” os odour that allows them to construct any smell they like.
Once they have perfected a device that can analyse smells it will be a simple job to then send the instructions to a receiver anywhere in the world: “We can reproduce and transmit it, like we transmit vision and sound on a range of devices today.
“It will be a bit like the way red, green and blue are mixed to create any colour, he added, “we have 200 different molecules that we can mix to generate practically any perceptible odour.”
He says that as well as revolutionising the way we watch films and TV, it is particularly appropriate that it can used on telephones, because the basic idea of sampling and transmitting smells was first suggested over a century ago by the man widely credited with developing the first working telephone: Alexander Graham Bell.
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