Fifth Sense: Adding An Extra Dimension To Movies And More
You’re sitting in a movie theater watching a horror film. The protagonist stifles their breath as they hide from the killer. But you know he’s there. Because seconds before he appears on the screen you suddenly get a whiff of his sweat.
The experience of watching a movie or TV show – even playing a video game – could soon be heightened by the added dimension of scent.
It’s the future of entertainment, says Avner Gal, CEO of iRomaScents, the Israeli startup that’s developing the technology for scented movies.
Right now though, he’s using the innovation to make shopping for fragrances easier, and to give children memorable experiences while learning in the classroom.
“Whenever you have an experience that involves a strong scent, you remember it for much longer,” says Gal. “We don’t use it too much in entertainment, or in education, but our technology is going to change that.”
The company has developed a diffuser device that holds 45 different scents, and it has partnered with a leading fragrance company in the US that can produce nearly any scent you can imagine.
“If you ask me what kind of scents we can emit, the answer is virtually everything,” says Gal. “We visited the facility and wanted to challenge them – so we asked to smell garlic bread. I could swear there was real garlic bread in the room.”
Shoppers buying perfume, aftershave, or cologne, stand in front of the diffuser as it emits one whiff at a time of the fragrances they might like.
An AI wizard makes four recommendations based on customers’ answers to a two-minute questionnaire on preferences and budget, and they get to sniff them one at a time.
It’s a better experience than being bombarded with lots of different scents, says Gal.
Gal devised the software after visiting stores around the world – big chains, small ones, and brand-name stores – to observe how sellers and buyers behaved.
He says that people who tried the software at various exhibits loved the fragrance they were recommended. And when asked if they would buy the fragrance after going through the process, almost everyone said yes.
iRomaScents began a six-month pilot at Maison Kosé, a wellness and beauty store in Tokyo last October.
“The feedback we have from users is amazing. It’s simple, straightforward, and takes less than two minutes.”
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Gal, an electrical engineer and a serial entrepreneur, also hopes his devices will be used in educational settings soon.
“Teachers can use it when teaching about nature, teaching about animals, teaching about food, teaching about vegetables, teaching about the sea – everything has a smell! We’ve just been neglecting it until now.”
For example, kids learning about forest ecosystems could use the device to smell fresh pine needles.
Retail and education are today’s priorities, but Gal also wants to tap into the entertainment world of movies, TV shows, and video games.
Scented films have been attempted in the past, the most notable being Smell-O-Vision in the 1960s, with pipes connected to individual seats in movie theaters, so that the delivery could be carefully controlled by the projectionist.
It was not successful. Aromas were released with a distracting hissing noise, and the odors were too faint in some parts of the theater.
Sixty years on, iRomaScents believes it has solved this problem by fitting individual devices onto the back of every movie theater seat, so that the people sitting in the seat behind each device will get a whiff of the scent when it is immediately emitted that lasts for just a few seconds.
Rather than have a person control the release of the scents, the devices connect to editing software in advance to release certain smells during certain moments.
During the film production process, editors will select the aroma they want from a library, drag it onto the timeline that shows each frame of the movie, and it will automatically be triggered when audiences reach that point.
iRomaScents does have competitors, namely in China and Japan, but they are not capable of containing more than 10 scents in their devices. There’s also OVR Technology, an early-stage company that claims it can create thousands of scents through a headset-like device.
Its business model varies depending on what it’s being used for – like retail, education, or eventually, the movie theater business. It’s a one-time purchase for the device itself, and there are different subscription programs depending on how often their customers need refills.
The Herzliya-based company is currently in discussions with leading companies in the field of fragrances and movies.
iRomaScents expects its devices to be rolled out to retail stores within the next few months.