Future episodes of popular shows might be customized based on odors detected in the home

Companies that make electronic programming guides have figured out six ways from Sunday to optimize recommendations for what your next binge-watched TV show should be. But what if your TV could recommend shows based on the smell of pizza or curry wafting through the living room?

That may be next. TiVo, the company that pushed the digital video recorder into the mainstream, has just been issued a patent for a guide system that will recommend content based on odors detected in a room.

So how does this crazy version of the Smell-O-Vision work? According to the patent document, the system detects odors using any number of different scent detection devices, or “electronic noses”, ranging from “chemical sensors, biosensors, gas chromatography systems, mass spectrometer-based systems, and/or hybrid systems.”  Once an odor is detected, the system matches the scent signature against  a database and then serves up content or ads based on the smell.

One somewhat strange example has the system detecting the smell of spaghetti and then serving up content “relevant to spaghetti” like “advertisements for spaghetti sauce, movies featuring the consumption of spaghetti, and/or any other media asset likely to be enjoyed by a user that enjoys spaghetti).”

Ok, so spaghetti based content is kind of a weird idea, but I’m willing to cut these guys some slack since they invented a TV guide that smells and I figure there are plenty of other people who can figure out interesting ways to use the technology.  One straightforward idea is to recommend cooking shows based on odors repeatedly detected in a home. Imagine how excited an exec at Nestle would be to know which homes smell like baked cookies on the weekends so they can serve up some Toll House ads on Saturday morning.

Programming guide with smell detection

The above illustration from the patent filing shows a programming guide with “scent mode” on and recommendations based on different odors such as perfume, pizza or pets.

The patented system can also factor in environmental factors such as heat or humidity. One example given in the patent the recommending cold beverages to a viewer when a room is hot since they might they might very well be thirsty.

The patent, which was filed on July 31, 2013, was issued to Rovi Guides Incorporated on December 26, 2017. Rovi, a provider of electronic programming guides and content protection software, was acquired by TiVo in 2016 and became part of TiVo business entertainment group that serves big cable and satellite providers.

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