In programming, there is the notion of “code smell”—a subtle indication that something is terribly wrong in a piece of source code, but without any (obvious) actual mistake.
For example, if you saw the following:
print("E"); print("RR"); print("OR"); print("!");
that would be a good indication that something extremely bizarre was going on in a codebase.
Unfortunately, in order to notice “code smell,” a person must actively review the source code in question.
But what if code smell could ACTUALLY generate a strange or horrible smell (Figure 1)? Then a person wouldn’t have to actively look for problems—the horrible smell of rotting meat would indicate that there was a problem in the codebase.
This smell-based notification method wouldn’t need to be restricted to programming errors, either: spell checking notifications, software updates, and other information could all be conveyed by smell.
- A computer could have an incense-burner-like attachment that would allow it to emit various smells.
- For example, a spellchecking warning could emit the smell of recently-touched copper coins (Figure 2), while “you have 100 unread emails” could emit the smell of curdled milk.
- This would allow a user to know what items require attention on their computer without even having to turn on the screen!
- This smell-dispensing attachment could be refilled just like printer ink, making it extremely eco-friendly.
PROS: Allows computer errors to be conveyed without requiring the user to actively look at a screen.
CONS: People get used to strange smells fairly quickly, so these smell-based warnings would need to be addressed quickly, before the user adjusted to the smell and stopped noticing it.