The Secret History Of Google Nose

One of Google’s annual April Fools’ Day gags is, as you’ve probably heard, Google Nose. It’s ridiculous, of course. Nobody wants to try and put smell on the Internet!

Except, believe it or not, there are. Google isn’t just pulling a goofy product out of thin air: They’re actually mocking an entire subculture of startups.

The most recent example arrived at CES this year and is called the Game Skunk. The Game Skunk markets itself as, well, basically Google Nose for video games:

GameSkunk enhances game play to its highest level. How? Now, you can use all of your senses, including your sense of smell. Missing from your game playing role is the ability to smell the action; cooking food, explosions on the battle field, crashes on the race track, and just the essence of real life as it plays out in a virtual reality setting. Just wait; you will be catapulted into a whole new way of game play. Don’t just play, play all the way.

So far, there have been no reports of the Game Skunk becoming popular among game developers. Making this even more bizarre is the fact that they actually have competition, in the form of the company Scent Sciences, and Scentcom.

And this isn’t a new idea either. In 2005, a prototype gaming stench device was supposedly shown behind closed doors at CES. Japanese Internet cafes tried it in 2004, a British Internet provider tested it, there’s an XML protocol, and back in 1999, the iSmell debuted.

In other words, people have been trying to make you smell the Internet for nearly fifteen freakin’ years. It’s an idea that has been tried, that has failed, and people just keep trying to make it happen.

The fact that Google decided to make fun of these people should tell you just how quixotic this particular quest has been. Unsurprisingly, these things generally turn out to smell awful in practice, thanks to the volatile organic molecules involved. But you have to admire how they’re sticking with it, despite everything telling them to invest their time and money into something more productive, like arena football.