Category: Scent in Theaters

Aroma Journeys – “Scent Music” – Integrating Scent within Media Experiences

By , May 8, 2010 9:27 am

Comments from Doug: Regarding the term “Realistic”

We have taken a very different approach to integrating scent with media experiences.

Aroma Journeys  “Scent Music”:

We have approached the scent layer within a multisensory experience as an abstract, emotional (even medicinal/pharmaceutical) composition, working much like a music composition does within a motion picture. The musical score does not literally have match a scene, but rather evokes a mood, stirs the audience, sets a pace or facilitates a process the director had in mind. It often captures the flavor of an environment. Our system (the MSS or Multisensory Stimulation System) works to support various media in a way more like music.

“Excellent point and perspective, one I have not had for multi-sensory but also similar to how we pare scent to architecture. We interpret the feeling and accent with scent layers…very cool!!” Quoted comment by MP.

I do consider this a fairly new art form – Scent Poetry.

From Previous AromaComposer Documents:

“Until now, gimmicky theatrical aroma systems have used aromatics as an independent effects system, designed to throw out familiar scents to match the physical environment of a movie or theme park ride, to give a sense of increased realism, often using cheap synthetic or chemical scents.”

“In contrast, the aromaComposer system is designed to stimulate emotions, and works in a subtle and often sublime fashion, increasing the emotional impact and subconsciously alerting people to a process. This is True Aromatherapy. Integrated into the process of healing, or entertaining, the aroma delivery is not a show by itself. It works by pulling upon emotional threads to manipulate the guest’s psyche, to open closed doors, to medicinally treat, working as a subtle trendsetter and as a background for thought and for expression.”

“This gives us a way of presenting aromatic essences in a new context. A progression of inhaled aromatics guide people though a process, each scent with its own distinct purpose in that process, and each step preparing them for the next in that process. This works very well when integrated into a multisensory experience.”

“The aromaComposer system is not a synthesizer, but rather a “synergizer”. It is not intended in anyway to simulate or synthesize smells from a series of substances either natural or synthetic, but rather to automate the process that aromatherapists use in crafting useful synergies from various pure essential oils and/or absolutes.”

Doing Realistic is Possible

Surrealistic is the more accurate term.

This is not to say that we cannot produce special realistic cartridges designed for a particular type of game play, which of course we can. But inherently our most flexible and universal systems actually compose aroma, thus… “AromaComposer”, creating powerful “abstract” journeys… or scent-performances, which are able to accompany existing media creations of all types… automatically (using a new “intelligent” technology I have in my mind).

In our actual scent-track design process, various essential oil qualities and effects are weighted and are carefully balanced within the multisensory composition: Included are compatibility with the natural environment, ability to stimulate or evoke feelings and emotions, ability to induce physiological and hormonal changes, thought patterns and levels of awareness, create new memories and/or trigger old memories, which work together to move us on a deliberate path.

The dramatic implications of this system are quite amazing.

Surreal – this may be the word…

Surreal… having a strange dreamlike atmosphere or quality like that of a surrealist painting marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also : unbelievable, fantastic.

R. D. Nelson 5/8/2010

AromaComposer – A Brief History

By , August 16, 2009 4:09 pm



In the early 1960’s, … my father took my brothers and myself to the Santa Monica Pier, where I experienced an expensive experimental arcade game machine called “Sensorama”, now acknowledged as one of the first virtual reality systems. I experienced true multisensory… a 3-D film, stereo sound, vibration, wind and different aromas in one box. Created by Mort Heilig and patented in 1962. Spent all my change that day to run through his shows. As I remember, one was an over the sand dunes experience in a dune buggy… another included a bicycle, downhill motion, and included a wink from a pretty girl in passing. It sure beat my incense, strobe light and sync-sound light box projects of the 60’s.

Themed Design

In 1984, while working on the Baltimore Power Plant project for Six Flags, I experienced the “Sensorium Theater”, which I was not the designer of, but did see the processes used intimately, and the failures too, which taught me much about the benefits and deficits of such multisensory systems, especially the scent system with its chemical wax like pellets.

In 1985, as Project Designer, I proposed to Caesars Palace that we use scent to stimulate/excite their patrons as they entered the casino… through this ancient Rotunda… via a moving sidewalk. It was a pretty far out concept … to all involved. Got cut from budget. Capable systems at this time were primitive, lacking or unavailable. The concept of scent marketing is not new to me. (see linked document ProjectScope.html)

Sanrio Fairyland Entry

A few years later, in 1987 proposed multiple scented environments within the Fairyland Restaurant/Theater due to be created at Sanrio’s Puroland. By 1989, the idea of… and use of environmental fragrancing was going full bore while I lived and worked in Japan. I advocated it on various retail-marketing projects, such as the Sanrio Gallery, and have been a big supporter of scent environmental marketing, but again technology was primitive.

Our Patents and Prototypes

Multisensory Delivery System

In the late 90’s we were still unable to find a good multi-scent diffuser for our Multisensory Stimulation System (pictured above), then under development. So we began to develop our own technology.

In 1998 our first generation aroma system was built, and in November 2000 a Provisional Patent was filed. This utility patent describes both Method and Apparatus. The Patent for the aromaComposer was officially granted in August 2004. The patent permits from one… to any number of scents to be actively diffused or blended within the machine. Three generations of prototypes have been built and tested extensively, which are all based upon, and built according to the strict methodology described in our patent. Each version is technologically more refined.

A second patent and numerous trade secrets protect those advances.

Second-generation prototype in use.

Second-generation prototype in use.

Advantages of this system over the current state of the art include:

  • Ability to switch scents “on the fly”, selecting from a number of different oils.
  • Ability to blend thousands of scents from several sources and dynamically select different blends “on the fly”.
  • Uses much less oil than traditional diffusers (essential oils are very expensive)
  • Leaves virtually no residue or lingering scents, even in small spaces.
  • Operates with pre-programmed music and/or voice CDs and DVDs (Relaxation, Healing, Creativity, Determination, etc.; See “Programmed Experiences”)
  • Programmable via standard computer interface for complete control of the user experience (the therapist can also record and edit programs for later use and share blends over the Internet)
  • System distributes trace amounts at close range to targeted user only.
  • Able to respond to the needs of an individual as those needs change.
  • Extremely quiet operation

These characteristics create a dramatic new experience for individuals, which when applied properly can reduce stress, alter consciousness and promote well being.

The third-generation aromaComposer… for Special Needs and Spa Applications – Had optional motion sensor switch activation, rechargeable battery operation, and a selection of nozzles for various purposes

Download now:

The new “AromaComposer” 3rd-Gen Prototypes in Progress – a PDF Publication

Integrated Scent Marketing Systems

Since developing the basic aromaComposer and its controller systems I have received various inquiries from individuals and companies, through the years, from around the world, interested in using our system for scent marketing purposes. We have proposed placing all components into a single box, mounted within a kiosk or display, for dedicated scent-marketing purposes.

A new scent-marketing prototype finally exists… based upon our Generation-3 head, bottle and pump system, fit into a solidly mounted single container. Ten plus years in the making.

c.2009 R. Douglas Nelson. All rights reserved.

Q & A – Aroma for Group Presentation

By , August 10, 2009 3:08 pm

Here are a few questions recieved over the years from people interested in use of our technology for various purposes, including theatrical use of scent and scent-marketing… worth reading. RDN


Is the diffuser capable of “personal” delivery?

The aromaComposer was designed specifically for personal delivery, and excels at it.

More specifically, we want to know whether multiple aromaComposers can be used in a single room by multiple users.

Most certainly Yes!…multiple aromaComposers can be used in a single room by multiple users.

In such a configuration, would the scent from one interfere with the scent from another?

In a tightly packed movie theater with rows of people shoulder to shoulder and knee to back, this would present a challenge. In a video game arcade, or at a specially built bar, or within a room with several point of purchase displays or kiosks, the aromatic separation could be maintained.

Thus, in designing a production system, we would normally need to know:

How close together do you desire to place the users? Are they seated or standing? How are users positioned in relation to each other?

How large is the space… its volume? How many users typically per cubic foot of airspace?

What kind of air conditioning or purification system is usually installed within the desired environment? Could we specify something different?

How often and for what period of time is aroma being directed to the users? Short bursts on occasion or a constant flow?

Are we blending custom synergies for each individual, or projecting a small pre-designed palette to be shared by many, just at different times?

How many component oils are desired?

How do we want to control this unit? Is it interfacing with existing systems? Is it intended to be combined with other sensual media displays? Is the system controlled by simple selection of a predetermined program or does it happen automatically through the guest’s selection via conscious choice, or by biofeedback analyzed by a complex AI device? FYI: We use either a computer or a DVD player here for demonstrations.


A System FAQ can be found at this link.


The Sensorium “Stink-o-Vision” Theater

By , August 10, 2009 1:58 pm

Application of scent in a theater can be tricky, but can be done well, with careful programming, a high technology scent system, and appropriate essences.

Below is a true story of a failed but typical theater where scent was diffused.

Sensorium (Stink-o-vision) Theater, Baltimore Maryland, 1984
I was once involved in theme park project where others built a permanent theater. Inexpensive scent ejectors were placed onto the backs of all seats, intended to blow scent at the person in the seat behind. The ejectors were loaded with different flavors of cheap wax-like pellets, that seemed to work similarly to solid Glade or other bathroom air fresheners.

During a Three-D movie, the scents were dispersed on queue. For instance, pine in a forest, exhaust from a passing car, apple pie and then hot dogs at a country fair.

Seems fun, but some problems:

1) After about two weeks the theater took on the combined smell of all of those odors. The fabric upholstery, curtains, carpet and acoustic wall panels sucked up the scent, I don’t know if it could ever be removed.

People now entered the theater with scrunched noses and negative comments. “What is that awful smell?”

2) The system was also noisy, too, with clicking actuators and compressed air whooshing out, which you would hear over the movie. Not too natural, but maybe fun. 😉 Some people would bend over and place their nose up near the scent exit port a few inches from the person’s head in front of them.

3) Quality of the scent materials and unexpected combination of residual scents hurt the experience greatly.

I designed the aromaComposer to avoid the shortfalls of what I had experienced in Baltimore… and of similar environmental fragrancing systems in use or developed previously. When creating this technology, I explored other systems, patents and approaches to scent diffusion, and improved upon them in many ways.


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