HIGHTOWER: An Internet Smell Machine?

Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.

Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you on a loop-d-loop ride through the extreme universe of internet marketing, where everything is for sale, anything goes, and virtual reality rules. Internet hucksters use wild colors, eye-popping images, and jazzy sounds to draw your attention to their ads, trying to get you to reveal your credit card number and buy stuff. In their digital reach for your eyes, ears, and wallet, however, they have ignored a marketing bonanza: Your nose.

The New York Times reports that "the human olfactory system is enormously complex, underserved by industry, and a potential gold mine." Personally, I don't care to have my olfactory system served by industry, do you? Apparently, it's coming whether you and I want it or not, for marketers have decided "there's gold in them thar noses."

To fill this sensory gap, a company called DigiScents is marketing a digital smell machine. Called iSmell, this gizmo plugs right into your personal computer and wafts virtual odors at you. Want to buy coffee on line? Click onto iSmell and get a whiff of it first. You could also sample the scent of a cologne, get that new-car smell when checking out new models on-screen, and instead of just looking over a restaurant's menu—sniff out each entree! The company boasts that its iSmell gadget has a palate of 128 chemicals that can combine to give you millions of odors.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... If we have to have odors coming at us from our computers, why not an on-line Truth-in-Smell law? For example, it could require the smell of exhaust fumes on Web sites hawking SUVs, an acrid stench of greed on Web sites for HMOs, or a gaseous odor emitting from the Web sites of pontificating politicians?

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