Savvy marketers aren't the only ones who think smell is cool. To lots of other folks, that's as plain as the nose on your face:
Better electronic noses. They don't stink at their job (which includes quality control for the food industry), but they could use some improvements. English researchers recently came up with a big one: By adding faux mucus (a very thin layer of a gas-separating polymer), they improved electronic noses' sense of smell markedly. (But next to human sniffers, they're still not up-to-snuff.)
* Breath-giving news for babies. When premature newborns have trouble breathing, they're typically treated with stimulants (caffeine and doxapram), but that doesn't always help. In those cases, researchers in France recently found, a pleasant odor in the incubator may make all concerned breathe easier. Compared with two days when their air was unscented, the study's 14 infants experienced significantly fewer incidents of apnea -- breathing stoppages -- during the 24 hours when they got to smell the roses. . . well, actually, the vanilla.
* A nice place to visit. Having an MRI isn't exactly a day at the beach, but Florida Hospital's Celebration Health facility decided to try to make it seem like one. They named their MRI department Seaside Imaging, painted ocean murals on the walls, provided lounge chairs and rockers for patients, disguised the MRI machine as a sandcastle and scented the air to smell like the seashore. After the makeover, appointment cancellations were cut in half.
* Scents-itivity training. General Dynamics wanted to make their helicopter pilot training simulator as true to life as possible, so they installed a scent delivery system that coordinates with what's happening in the training program. The odor of diesel fumes is ongoing throughout the "flight," but when, for example, an electrical fire is supposedly breaking out, the smell of burning plastic is one pungent . Next time they smell that, they could be on a real mission but wouldn't be left up in the air not knowing what to do.
* Smell the coffee and wake up. Custom-scented rooms will be the order of the day (and night) at a hotel under construction in Dubai. Guests will choose a fragrance to go to sleep with, and instead of an alarm or wake-up call, they'll have the smell of fresh-brewed coffee or fresh-made pancakes to lure them out of bed in the morning.
* Fan-acea? Scented fans can do just about anything -- keep you from falling asleep in your car, feeling stressed at your desk, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in your yard. Also, coming: cartridges that attach to any old fan and turn it into a scented fan.
-- Karen Ravn