Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Smell-O-Vision Cinema Again?

In the ever competitive world of movie making you often need realism and visceral appeal for success. Despite the present special effects wizardry, high definition images, and computer animation many movie goers are anticipating even more virtual reality effects. One of these "new" cinema sense experiences recently introduced into some Japanese movie theaters is dubbed Smell-O-Vision. "The scents will circulate through the theatre via machines filled with fragrant liquids located under the back row seats". At first whiff this seems like a novel idea. However, it was attempted a few decades ago.

"Todd's 1960 film Scent of Mystery (1960) delivered scents to the audience throughout the film using a more advanced process called "Smell-o-vision". Problems propagating scents in synch with the film and flushing the scents out between each showing led to Smell-o-vision's early demise." -via Wikipedia

In view of that historic failure I wouldn't be rushing out to buy shares in Smell-O-Vision companies quite yet even if the technology has improved. Full Story

Let's see...

  • Certain odors can cause nausea and wretching in some poor souls. Will the theater supply barf bags?
  • Many of the chemicals that create odors and scents are associated with allergic reactions - hopefully nothing that requires a paramedic in the theater or a syringe of adrenalin on standby.
  • As alluded to earlier - how will the scents be cued up to match the movie scenes and then dissipate quickly enough for the next scene? There could well be a peculiar mixture of odors wafting around the theater half way through the movie.
  • Who the hell decides what romance, love, joy, fear and anger smell like anyway?
  • You might get away with scents for flowers, food, coffee, etc. even if they are mixed in with the waft of stale, buttered popcorn, but how many will leave the theatre saying - "boy smelling that coffee Brad Pitt was drinking was an academy award moment".
  • What about some of the nasty odors that life conjures up? For the sake of realism do you want to smell smog, stale urine, dead bodies, formaldehyde and other nasty nasal delicacies while you relax in the cinema?
  • There might be a small benefit for some - the local cinema could actually become the ideal public place to pass gas without embarrassment - if you time it right.

  • I'm going to go out on a limb here, and predict the early second demise of Smell-O-Vision for this decade at least.

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    Saturday, April 15, 2006

    Easter Egging

    How far down the rabbit hole will you go? Hippity Hop. I see a large Pysanka in your future - and it is the World's largest Easter egg. You can go see it in Vegreville, Alberta. Make rubber eggs and paint them for Easter - they'll bounce, but they shouldn't break. Have you ever hunted for virtual Easter Eggs on your DVDs and other media? - there are lots of hidden messages and features on many DVDs. How about a fun, interactive digital Easter egg hunt -nice if you don't want to hide eggs in the yard for the kids. Remember Harvey the rabbit? He's big, but he's no Easter rabbit. Harvey was just a magical, invisible friend for James Stewart - wouldn't mind one myself actually.

    World's largest Easter egg in Vegreville, Alberta

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    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Cyborg Century

    "A human who has certain physiological processes aided or controlled by mechanical or electronic devices".

    My friend became a cyborg recently, and it happened rather quickly - he now sports an artificial hip joint made out of titanium - a kind of bullet proof replacement. My mother has been a cyborg for a few years now, ever since she had ocular lens implants after cataract removal. This procedure left her with 20/20 vision in one eye at the age of eighty. I have a few metallic tooth fillings, but I'm not sure if that qualifies me as a cyborg. Thwarting tooth decay doesn't seem to have the same cachet as replacing a joint or correcting near blindness in terms of functional utility to the human organism. In that sense I admit to some cyborg envy, but am fortunate to have my original parts for now. By definition you can become a cyborg without implants or replacing various organs. For example visual devices such as the EyeTap form a wearable computer that allows real time electronic interactions with your environment and the internet as you go about your daily activities. Thus you have both endogenous and exogenous cyborgs, and their hybrid counterparts. This century will likely witness the rise of the cyborg in ever more sophisticated forms beyond replacement of dysfunctional body parts or visual accessories. It's not difficult to foresee some future apocalyptic battlefield where genetically enhanced soldiers run amok. They might wear an exoskeleton that amplifies their strength dramatically and protects them from injury. Their nervous systems might be directly wired to weaponry for instant response and direct control of multiple weapons. There are military scientists working on this technology right now at DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency). Hopefully these super cyborgs won't rebel and form their own military elite under a new flag.

    At the moment, since most cyborgs are still essentially like the rest of us they probably aren't banding together in secret societies or plotting to take over the world. Then again, my friend with the new hip did give me an odd look the other day when I asked him if he felt like a "new man" - has the hip replacement triggered his cyborg initiation? The present disjointed, heterogeneous cyborg population may not be compelled to form alliances with others based on diverse technological enhancements many of which will not be externally visible. Will this new cyborg society require modified political, legal and ethical constructs? If the technology is expensive this could create a wealthy elite cyborg class with only a few citizens able to afford the best implants and devices. An organization called the World Transhumanist Association with members from across the globe is already formally dealing with these issues. Of course, no discussion on cyborg technology would be complete without mentioning the ingenious, eccentric inventor/engineer Steve Mann. He may be the first exogenous cyborg pop star by virtue of his wearable computer visual accessory called the EyeTap that has gained him some notoriety in public places. This device allows the user to interact with the web, receive e-mail, record video, and perform other computer functions that raise the question why life as a cyborg is better.

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