The traditional way the army delivers orders to soldiers is by shouting at them. But researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles think the US Army Research Office should consider an alternative – coded smells.
These can be delivered silently, in the dark and when loud noise is drowning out speech. Furthermore, says the USCLA patent, the immediate reaction to a smell is emotional, rather than rational, so an odour trigger may encourage people to carry out orders without question.
Pictures filed with the patent show how the researchers used a collar, like a gun belt, which hangs round a soldier’s neck. The collar has a dozen cartridges, each containing a wick soaked in smelly liquid, a valve and a small propeller fan. Remote radio signals open selected valves and kick fans into life.
A soldier could be trained to associate specific actions with unmistakable odours. This would allow the smells to be used to jog memory – if you smell this, do that.
The system could also make training more realistic, with soldiers getting whiffs of desert dust, sea water or mud that are synchronised with audio and visual cues. The collar is close to the wearer’s nose, so the effect is immediate, and rapidly fades when the valve is closed.
The same technology can be used to enhance audio-visual entertainment, the patent suggests. Smellivision, anyone?