A "smelling screen" that makes smells appear to come from the exact spot on any LCD screen that is displaying the image of a cup of coffee was developed by researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan.
Invented by Haruka Matsukura and colleagues, it works by continuously feeding odours from vaporising gel pellets into four air streams, one in each corner of the screen, New Scientist reported.
These air streams are blown out parallel to the screen's surface by fans, and varying the strength and direction of them manoeuvres the scent to any given spot on the screen.
The airflow is gentle enough that the team have been able to create the illusion that the smell is actually wafting from a digital object on-screen.
The current system only pumps out one scent at a time, but Matsukura says the next stage is to incorporate a cartridge, like those for printers, which allows smells to be changed easily.
The screen was shown at the IEEE Virtual Reality conference in Orlando, Florida, last week.
Matsukura suggests it could also be used to enhance advertising screens and museum exhibits.
This research is published under the headline 'Smell-o-vision screens give you a real noseful.'