If you're looking forward to the day when you can stop and smell the daisies without putting down your laptop, it may not be too far off. I'm at the much-hyped but financially troubled DigiScents Inc. in Oakland, California, for a click-and-sniff demonstration. When I select the cotton candy icon, a short blast from the iSmell scent synthesizer — which connects to a computer or game console — takes me back to the county fair. Some fragrances are better than others: ocean breeze tends more toward air freshener than the beaches of Bali.

Researchers from India to Massachusetts are exploring digital...

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