3D TV with Touch, Smell by 2020?

It might seem like something right out of the Jetsons, but Japanese researchers are hoping to have a commercially available 3D television on the market by the year 2020.

The television would not only show the scenes in three-dimensional virtual reality, but would also let you experience the smells and "touch" the images on the projection. The images would be projected upwards from a screen that lies on the floor.

Imagine watching a cooking show where you'd be able to smell the dishes the cook is preparing, or be able to touch a new fur coat before buying it on a home shopping network. These researchers would like to make that a reality.

While 3D televisions are already in the works, reproducing smell and touch have proven difficult. Researchers are looking into several ways to reproduce touch, including ultrasound, electric stimulation, and wind pressure.

The movement to create such a television is part of a national initiative by the Japanese government to promote "universal communication." Techniques for language translation and better methods to search for information on the Internet are currently being investigated, a government official said.

The project has asked for 1 billion yen ($9 million USD) in funding for the 2007 fiscal year starting next April.

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