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Steak-Scented Billboard Entices Drivers 282

In addition to car exhaust and road grime, travelers along Highway 150 in North Carolina can now enjoy the smell of a barbecue thanks to a new billboard. The work of ScentAir, which provides custom scents for businesses, the advertisement for a local grocer emits the smell of charcoal and black pepper over the highway. "Marketing director Murray Dameron said the beef scent was emitted by a high-powered fan at the bottom of the billboard that blows air over cartridges loaded with BBQ fragrance oil. 'It smells like grilled meat with a nice pepper rub on it,' he explained."


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Steak-Scented Billboard Entices Drivers

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  • BBQ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:49PM (#32512404)

    Screw that! I want BACON!!!

    • Screw that! I want BACON!!!

      For that, all you need is to go into a gas station and use the restroom. Push button, receive bacon [].

    • But I'm a vegetarian, you insensitive clo ... oh, wait: "the smell of charcoal and black pepper". That's ok, then. Says something about their BBQ skills, doesn't it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta ( 162192 )

      As much as I love bacon, the smell of good, slowly smoked BBQ beats it every time. There's nothing like stopping at a shack on the side of some southern highway on a cool 90F afternoon in early summer for some ribs that have been smoked all day long. A glass of lemonade to drench the heat from the dry rub and a wedge of corn bread, and you have the finest meal imaginable.

  • Then I realized that they had not, in fact, made a misteak.
  • A Scentsor? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Izabael_DaJinn ( 1231856 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:53PM (#32512474) Homepage Journal
    I always wondered why there can't be an electronic way to generate smells, such as how a speaker produces sounds. Is it theoretically possible to ever create a machine or device that can create a variety of scents based on some sort of scent-spectrum? Or are "cartridges loaded with BBQ fragrance oil" the best we'll ever do? (This is one of those questions I have always wondered but been afraid to ask!)


    • Re:A Scentsor? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow.wrought@g ... om minus painter> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:59PM (#32512626) Homepage Journal
      AFAIK, the easy part is generating the smell. The difficult part is how to move from one smell to another. Once the speakers stop, the sounds waves stop propogating almost immediately. But a smell will still be lingering. I believe they tried this with some movie houses back in the 50's (billed as Smell-O-Vision probably:-) and they just couldn't get one smell out of the theatre in time for the next one.

      I'm also pretty sure I don't want to think about how some web sites would actually use such technology for generating a profit.
      • Re:A Scentsor? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:35PM (#32513212)
        Producing a single smell (like steak) or a small number of smells is easy. Generating a system that would be flexible enough to cover a wide range of the "aroma space" is much more difficult. That aside, your point about lingering is also very true. It's pretty hard to suck the aroma back out of a space and there are problems with contamination as well (example, I was grilling over the weekend and the clothes I wore that day still smell like smoke).
        • This sort of thing will be far easier once everyone has the proper brain implants. Then they could just program the right smell into your brain, no chemicals and no mess!

          I sure as hell hope we never get to that day, though. :(

          • Wouldn't it be easier to just implant themselves directly in your bank account? Then they wouldn't even have to make the steaks, and we wouldn't get fat. Or rich, for that matter.
        • Re:A Scentsor? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anachragnome ( 1008495 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @02:38PM (#32514220)

          "Generating a system that would be flexible enough to cover a wide range of the "aroma space" is much more difficult."

          Not at all. The big mall we have here in town manages numerous smells during all business hours. The clothing shops have leather scents wafting from them, the jewelry stores have rose scents and such, etc, etc. Every single store has SOME scent being pushed out the front door into the open areas of the mall. They simply have some periodic sprayer releasing canned scents into a fan duct above the doors. They've been doing it for at least the six years I've lived here.

          It is also the reason I don't do ANY business there anymore.

          I have a headache within 15 minutes of walking in the door of the mall. The problem is that they are not using actual components for smells, such as leather to produce the smell of leather, but rather some chemical composition that merely smells like leather. All of the smells are artificial and there is no regulation of the chemicals they are exposing all of the customers to. The companies that manufacture the scents are the only ones determining what is used and what isn't. Considering they do it for profit, I do not assume they are using known SAFE chemicals but rather chemicals that simply smell like what the customers want. I actually tried to find out what chemicals they use. The mall managers denied they used them at all, yet when I pointed out the clothing shop that smelled like leather but didn't sell a scrap of actual leather, I was told that the smells of the mall "mingle" and that it was probably from a different store.

    • by john83 ( 923470 )
      Because you'd need a way to synthesise arbitrary chemicals.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by clone53421 ( 1310749 )

        No more so than a printer has to synthesise arbitrary coloured dyes.

        • Re:A Scentsor? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:22PM (#32512998)

          Printer -> 4 colors (3 primaries plus black)

          Smell-o-whatever -> several hundred different aroma compounds

          That's your problem. There is, as far as anybody's been able to demonstrate, such a thing as a primary odor. You have somewhere in the region of 1000 different odor receptors in your nose but they are mostly non-specific and have overlapping sensitivities that make it next to impossible to reproduce all possible aromas from a small subset of chemicals. Couple that with the fact that aroma chemicals are, by necessity, volatile (otherwise you couldn't smell them) and you have a real problem with shelf-life too. If you had an olfactometer with a few hundred chemicals for producing smells, you would be forever having to replace the chemicals because they have evaporated away.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by kno3 ( 1327725 )

            you would be forever having to replace the chemicals because they have evaporated away.

            I can't see that that would be a problem. Printer ink is volatile, but that has a reasonable shelf life. You just keep it in a closed container until it is actually needed. In fact, if you didn't do that then your "olfactometer" (surely it would be more a olfactoducer) would constantly be producing the biggest concoction of scents it could muster.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bcmm ( 768152 )
          That works because we have only have three types of receptor for colour vision (plus rods for greyscale night-vision). Colours are distinguished by how much they stimulate each receptor, and things that stimulate them in the same proportions are seen to be the same colour, even if the light is not composed of the same frequencies. Thus, you can approximately simulate any combination of frequencies at various intensities by combining, at appropriate intensities, just three frequencies that each stimulate one
    • iSmell [] but the product failed because it stank (that, and there was no 3rd party software written to support it)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Deag ( 250823 )

      Some theme park rides have them. There is one in Disney world that has scents as well as 3d and water splashing and stuff.

    • Re:A Scentsor? (Score:5, Informative)

      by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:32PM (#32513166)

      You can't electronically reproduce a smell in a way analogous to a speaker. Olfaction is a chemical sense (along with taste) and requires chemicals to be present in order to be smelt. In other words, any device for producing aromas has to have a reservoir of aroma chemicals already present, in the same way a printer must have a reservoir of ink. Unfortunately, unlike a printer where you can produce a good range of colors from 3 primary colored inks, the same doesn't happen with smell. There is no such thing (as far as anybody has been able to identify) as a primary smell. You can't reproduce the smell of benzaldehyde by mixing other chemicals in any simple straightforward way.

      That's not to say you can produce a range of aromas by mixing chemicals, of course you can, it's what perfumers and flavorist do all day; but the palette of chemicals they use for, say, producing steak aromas is both large and quite different than the palette they'd use to produce, say, strawberry aromas. If you wanted a palette that could reasonably cover the entire range of aromas you might smell in everyday life (from steak and strawberries to gasoline and dog shit) it would easily run into several hundred chemicals.

    • Theoretically I suppose it's possible, but it's highly unlikely. Sound is produced by pressure waves. Those are easy to create by moving a speaker cone. Scents are actual particles floating through the air. Sure, it's theoretically possible to create particles I guess (E=mc^2), but I think that would be far worse than steak scented cartridges.

  • by jdpars ( 1480913 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:54PM (#32512488)
    I wonder what the billboards for the local strip clubs will smell like.
  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:55PM (#32512504)

    And what about people who get sick at the smell or sight of meat? Not all of us get all wet at the thought of eating a giant piece of cow. How is this different than wearing thick cologne or perfume, or slathering on aftershave to the point that the hallway still reeks of it hours after your passage? You know what, I'd rather smell burnt gas and diesel than half the things the general public slathers all over their body in the name of attracting the opposite sex. People who wear Axe and Old Spice, I'm looking at you.

    And now in addition to my daily routine of overly-scented people, they're adding overly-scented advertising? :( As if flashing, gyrating signs, sometimes moving and smoking, signs that are visible for miles wasn't enough. What next, shooting french fries at passing motorists?

    • by PlasmaEye ( 1128377 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:58PM (#32512590)

      What next, shooting french fries at passing motorists?

      Now that's what I call Fast Food.

    • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:02PM (#32512670)
      The technology should be completely banned. It's hard enough for those with chemical sensitivities to go about their lives without getting sick as it is. Having billboards distributing fragrances which may or may not make people sick is just wrong. It's bad enough for those of us that just have easily irritated noses, I feel sorry for the people that get really sick.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lowrydr310 ( 830514 )
        I live near a facility that manufactures food flavorings and scented additives, most notably ALL the scented oils that are used in the production of a well-known national candle store. At times, depending on the temperature and density of air and the speed and direction of wind, the heavy combination of scents can linger. It's not too bad actually; it almost smells like incense, however I can see how some people could be irritated by it.
        • I would have a headache 24/7 if I lived near or worked there. Ouchies.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Nadaka ( 224565 )

          Irritated isn't quite what I would call it.

          It takes 1 breath of air near scented candles to cause me "irritation". A few minutes of exposure to scented candles and I will have chest pain and trouble breathing. It takes 15 minutes of exposure to scented candles and I will actually start bleeding from my nose. More than that soon I will start vomiting.

          The chemicals used in many cleaning products and perfumes cause similar, but less severe reactions as well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Misagon ( 1135 )

            I am appaled that the post above was moderated as "Funny".
            This is a serious problem for many people, and that is not a joke!

            Myself, I would suffer a migraine attack from 15 minutes exposure of the wrong type of scented candles (some are OK, some are not, it depends on the chemical in the scent).
            And even if I can "cure" the migraine with medicine, that medicine has side-effects such as nausea, sleepiness and sluggishness .. and can have an adverse effect on your body in the long term.
            I have had to make the c

    • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:04PM (#32512708) Journal

      And what about people who get sick at the smell or sight of meat?

      I guess there’s just yet another place they’d have to avoid, as well as not being able to drive on half the streets in the city anyway because of various meat smells emanating from the restaurants and fast-food places.

      Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be as big a deal as you seem to think.

    • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:12PM (#32512836) Journal

      And what about people who get sick at the smell or sight of meat?

      What about the people who get sick at the smell or sight vegatables?

      If it had been the smell of a fresh salad would you mind as much?

      Don't hold your breath, I don't think this idea will catch on.

    • I hope they start selling this stuff in cans. I could use it as vegan repelent.

    • by StuartHankins ( 1020819 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:57PM (#32513576)
      I was told by several women that they didn't like Drakkar, Gio, Polo, Givenchy Pi, Joop, Oscar de la Renta, Quorum, Paloma's Minotaur, and Boss. At first I thought it was just the girl but it seems some actually prefer the cheap air-freshener scents. To prefer Bath and Body works or Old Spice / Coty / CK seems very alien to me. Maybe people are losing the ability to pick up some of the varied tones in these?
      • Maybe people are losing the ability to pick up some of the varied tones in these?

        When you consider how much perfume is around; in laundry detergent, hand soap, deodorant, shampoo, household cleaning products, food, kitty litter, candles, etc., it's no surprise people have lost a sensitivity to smell. It's simply overwhelming to the point that the only option is to desensitize. In much the same way people lose the ability to hear over time due to over-stimulation, you can lose your sense of smell if you're constantly exposed to strong scents.

        Think of how subtle a fern smells, or the smel

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by nomadic ( 141991 )
        I was told by several women that they didn't like Drakkar, Gio, Polo, Givenchy Pi, Joop, Oscar de la Renta, Quorum, Paloma's Minotaur, and Boss.

        There's the problem, you're wearing them all at once. Believe me, women don't like that, I know from experience.
    • I'm betting the steak scented sign won't go over well in parts of India.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CODiNE ( 27417 )

      People who wear Axe and Old Spice, I'm looking at you.

      Damn did I leave my webcam on again???

  • EIR (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MightyMait ( 787428 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @12:55PM (#32512512) Journal
    Hmmm...I wonder if something like this requires an environmental impact report. Could those scents be toxic?
    • Re:EIR (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:19PM (#32512956)
      This is North Carolina. I think smoking is still mandatory there.
      • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

        This is North Carolina. I think smoking is still mandatory there.

        Well Altria shipped all is manufacturing to Richmond, VA - so I think that smoking is no longer compulsory (for tweens at least)

      • by cosm ( 1072588 )
        Nope. The indoor smoking ban finally hit us this year. Also, no smoking within 50-feet of a public building. G.S.130A-497. And yet we are still proliferated with Tobacco fields. Go figure.
    • Like breathing the fumes from hundreds of cars per minute isn't toxic...

    • I'm wondering about the environmental impact of all the stray dogs that are probably wandering in from downwind.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We want billboards that smell like BBQ'd vegans!

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:06PM (#32512736)

    ScentAir, The Silent Killer
    by Mavra Chang, Reuters, New York
    June 9, 2023

    The advertising world took another hit as the 1000th case of brain cancer from the ScentAir advertising campaign was announced today...

  • Why isn't this tagged smellovision?
  • Scooped by NPR??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:09PM (#32512786) Homepage
    NPR covered this [] a week go. Granted, this is idle, but come on...
  • by strayant ( 789108 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @01:24PM (#32513032)
    So, would a billboard for a strip club smell like shame?
  • Mmm... those smells are helping me relax, putting me in a happy place. Now gimme my damn steak.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

    The target demographic is people who don't use air conditioning and/or drive down the highway with their windows down?

    Cute idea. Wonder if anyone will actually manage to "smell" it. I guess the optional brick throwing machine that broke car windows as they pass was just too tricky.

    • Unless you have the air in your car recycling air from inside the car, the air confditioner or heater will be pulling in outside air, even when the windows are up.

      Even with in-cabin recycling I still get whiffs of skunk and other powerful scents when driving on the highway.

      I use it mostly to avoid other people's exhaust fumes in slow traffic.

  • Uh, oh! Please don't give these guys [] any ideas! They'll have the entire stretch of I-40 from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City smelling like one big steak!
  • by houbou ( 1097327 )
    Billboards with food scent... Smelling of Steak! That should get PETA in an uproar.. unless PETA stands for Preparation and Eating of Tasty Animals :)
  • To me this is pure un-adulterated outright pollution. The Adv company is deliberately releasing odors into the atmosphere. And I bet they do no have an EPA license to do so.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:35PM (#32515000)
    Can we get one of these mounted here in Norfolk, Va near the PETA office?

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?