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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 11:11 GMT
E-mail tries out a sense of smell
Woman using the scent dome
An e-mail would contain a code for a particular scent
You could soon be able to spice up your e-mails with your favourite perfume.

UK net provider Telewest Broadband is testing a system to let people to send aromatic e-mails over the internet.

It has developed a kind of hi-tech air freshener that plugs into a PC and sprays a smell linked to the message.

Telewest say it could be used by supermarkets to tempt people with the smell of fresh bread or by holiday companies seeking to stir up images of sun-kissed beaches.

"This could bring an extra whiff of realism to the internet," said Chad Raube, director of internet services at Telewest Broadband.

"We are always looking at ways to enhance the broadband internet experience of the future and this time we are sure consumers will come up smelling of roses."

Emotional response

The technology behind the idea was originally developed by US company Trisenx. Scientists at Telewest's labs in Woking, Surrey, have built on that research to come up with the idea of a "scent dome".

Telewest's scent dome
The plug-in device for the PC could cost around 250
The dome comes with a cartridge containing 20 basic aromas, which can be combined to produce up to 60 different smells.

A "scented e-mail" would contain electronic signals that would tell the dome to release the smell of flowers, perfume or coffee.

"Our sense of smell is directly connected to our emotions," said anthropologist Kate Fox, director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford.

"Smells trigger very powerful and deep-seated emotional responses, and this additional element to the internet will enhance users' online experience by adding that crucial third dimension."

But the chance to sniff your e-mails not may come cheap. Telewest says its "scent dome" could cost around 250 and would only work with a high-speed, broadband connection.

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