When the tragic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, the powers that be at the University of Oregon’s Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact knew that they had to do something.
The Knight Campus has a stated mission to “fast-track scientific discoveries into innovations, products or cures to improve the quality of life for people in Oregon and throughout the world,” and if there was one thing Oregonians needed as people sickened and died and small businesses suffered it was an improved quality of life.
The scientists leapt into action to save the one thing the UO values above all else — sports revenues.
Robert E. Guldberg, vice president and Robert and Leona DeArmond executive director of the UO Knight Campus, immediately put scientists and interns on the case: How do you still profit from football and basketball when spectators can no longer crowd the stands?
“I knew we had to think outside the box,” Guldberg says. And he further knew that without Phil Knight’s money and support, he and UO President Michael Schill would soon be out of their jobs.
With others working on vaccines and testing the effectiveness of various masks, the Knight Campus decided to focus on technology. If fans could not come to the stadium, the stadium needed to come to the fans, and Zoom was just not enough.
Enter the technological solution to missing out on game day shenanigans: Nike™ Smell-O-Vision.
It was thought back in the 1950s that Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama were a bust when the efforts to release odors during a film so viewers could also “smell” the action fell on deaf noses, but the scientists and scholars of the Knight Campus pulled the technology out of the mothballs for the Zoom era.
“Now that we have cocktails to-go,” Guldberg enthused, “basketball lovers can hear the game, see the game, relax with a drink during the game, and smell the sweat and anxiety of the players at the comfort of their computers without risking COVID-19 exposure.”
Some members of the UO Board of Trustees expressed misgivings about the project, given how many people have lost their smell due to COVID-19, but Nike runs the UO, not the other way around.
Schill was equally excited. “For an extra $1,000, I will deliver the beer and fried food,” he says. “And for $5,000 more, the Oregon Duck mascot will make the delivery before the start of the game.”
He adds that while many have asked for the Ducks cheerleaders to deliver the booze and food, “that would be sexist.” Also, there are no cheerleaders because their practice facilities were taken away in order to give the basketball and football teams more space. “The teams needed it more,” Schill explains.
The computer interface needed to produce the scent is $3,000 and requires a $100 monthly subscription. All monies go to support Duck Athletics, which, Schill stresses, never loses money, nor turns a profit, the budget always comes out to $0. “It’s like magic,” he says, “just like Smell-O-Vision.” ν