Sniff out your pics

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By  Published  December 1, 2006

Here is a totally bizarre way to sift through the tons of files stored on your PC - use your sense of smell. According to, a research team at the University of Glasgow has created a system that lets PC users attach distinctive smells, such as the scent of fresh-cut grass or the whiff of chocolate, to a batch of digital snaps. The system, dubbed Olfoto, then lets a user sort through their image collection simply by following their nose! The researchers looked at how well the participants could sniff out their images compared with sorting by conventional text tags. “Although sorting by smell was far slower, the results were still encouraging,” stated Tim Brewster, the head of the research project on “It’s not perfect, but people can do it. It’s quite surprising and it’s under-exploited.” For their experiments, the researchers used an array of cube-shaped capsules (see pic), each of which released a different fragrance when activated electronically and which could be identified using a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader. When a particular image appeared on the screen users could ‘tag’ it with a scent by moving their chosen cube over the wireless reader. The research team used a number of scents including flowers, fruit and our least favourite - sweaty feet!

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