Olfactory Interfaces

What Does Olfactory Interfaces Mean?

Olfactory interfaces are interfaces based on the user’s sense of smell. They are often defined as interfaces that synthesize odors for emission to replace or support other types of sensory interfaces such as visual, tactile or audio interfaces.


Techopedia Explains Olfactory Interfaces

How olfactory interfaces work varies, and these systems are largely theoretical as they have not been broadly applied to any particular part of the IT industry. In Gartner’s definition, an olfactory interface includes a “flow delivery system,” a “pallete” of odor-generating materials and algorithms or programs that figure out how to mix and present specific odors.

The development of olfactory interfaces has been challenging for various reasons. Some have to do with the difficulties of finding natural odor-causing materials to synthesize a broad range of odors. Others have to do with the motivation for designing the systems; in the majority of cases, having an olfactory interface is impractical and inefficient. However, some IT experts are showing how olfactory interfaces can be applied; for instance, in educational systems, they can be used to develop olfactory signals for warnings and emergency systems, or to enhance certain kinds of immersive virtual-reality programs.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.