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Internet senses

Can the internet stimulate all five senses?

Internet senses

Can the internet stimulate all five senses?

When we use the internet, we’re only actually making use of two of our five senses of perception. Obviously, sight is one of them, with the screens full of text, images and videos we subject ourselves to, and internet use is often an audible experience too, especially if we’re on music streaming tools like Spotify or iTunes.

However, this still leaves three of our senses untouched by the internet. To become a fuller experience, is it possible the web could ever become a 4D experience that we can not only see and hear, but smell, touch and taste as well?


More than 50 years ago, the concept of Smell-O-Vision was born. This involved releasing odours into a cinema audience during a screening to enhance the viewing experience. A more developed version of this idea is now used in cinemas at the Disney resorts, spreading scents that are both pleasant and repulsive depending on what is on the screen.

More recent years have seen the development of TVs and mobile phones with the potential to emit up to 10,000 odours, although whether this is a good thing or not is debatable. Surely we all know someone who would enjoy nothing more than being able to release a smell during a phone conversation?

In 2014, a Harvard professor succeeded in sending a smelly text message from the U.S. to France, mercifully choosing an inviting-sounding fragrance of passion fruit and champagne.


Since the internet is mainly a visual experience, how do people with little or no eyesight use it?

An interesting article about how those with visual impairments navigate the cyberworld can be found here. Particularly fascinating is the use of refreshable Braille displays, allowing blind computer users to read the text displayed on their screen.

The continuing advances of 3D printing also have potential in allowing us to ‘touch’ the internet. Perhaps one day, people will be able to order certain items online and have them sent to their printer? It would work in much the same way as a fax, but literally with another dimension.


Of the five senses, it would seem that transmitting taste online is the toughest nut to crack. Imagine a day when not only can you catch up with your favourite cookery programmes online, but you can actually taste one of Mary Berry’s cakes from your living room!

That may be some way off, but earlier this year, a team from the National University of Singapore managed to use the internet to turn a glass of water into ‘virtual’ lemonade, simulating its colour and acidity.

We’ll have to make do with pleasing our eyes and ears for the time being, but these developments show how work is underway to make the web a truly immersive experience.

John Murray
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