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Sony has been awarded a patent for a technology that could conjure up smells, tastes and other sensations in the brains of movie-goers. Specifically, the patent (US Patent 6,729,337) covers "a method for generating sensory data onto the human neural cortex".

The more wary of you may wonder whether we have been suckered by a late April Fool's gag. We wondered about that too, but you can check out the patent in all its bizarre glory right here. So unless the US patent office has suddenly developed a much better sense of humour, we'll take this one as legit.

It describes using ultrasonic transducers (we kid you not) to stimulate neural activity in particular areas of the brain, causing the person to experience smells and tastes as part of the cinematic experience.

Film buffs could transport themselves to the garbage compactor in Star Wars (the original), join Frank N. Furter for a Meatloaf dinner in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, or smell the glove in Spinal Tap. Call us cynics if you like, but we suspect the technology may have a bit more of a market in the adult video industry.

The technology is outlined in the patent thus: "Changes in the neural firing timing induce various sensory experiences, depending on the location...the system induces recognizable sensory experiences by applying ultrasonic energy pulsed at low frequency in one or more selected patterns on one or more selected locations of the cortex."

Elizabeth Boukis, a spokeswoman for Sony Electronics, described the invention as "prophetic", New Scientist reports. "It was based on an inspiration that this may someday be the direction that technology will take us," she told the magazine.

Suitably inspired, we're off down the patent office to lay claim to the warp engine, tricorder, and transporter. We'd get more, but we expect George Lucas has already called dibs on the light-sabre and the death star, and Woody Allen might have snapped up the Orgasmatron by the time we get there. ®

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