It's pretty clear Data can see, hear, and feel stimuli; in fact his sight is better than the average humanoid's. But what about his olfactory abilities? Can he smell or taste anything?

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    You should have asked "Does Data smell?" and waited for the comments. Commented May 3, 2016 at 3:21
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    @OrganicMarble done- what a brilliant idea! Commented May 3, 2016 at 3:21
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    Followup question "How does Data smell?" Hightest voted answer: "Terrible!" Commented May 3, 2016 at 3:23
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    @OrganicMarble scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/126946/does-data-smell
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 20:41
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    I have rolled back an edit that conflicts with intent of the title.
    – ibid
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 13:49

3 Answers 3


I've divided this answer into his abilities to taste and smell:

He can't taste...

In TNG 'Hero Worship', Data says

DATA: I would gladly risk feeling bad at times if it also meant that I could also taste my dessert.

This strongly indicates he can't 'taste' anything he eats or drinks.

...but he can detect

Nevertheless, I suspect he has the ability to detect chemicals ingested. In Generations he experiences 'hate' when he drinks a beverage. The only logical explanation of this is that he could detect the chemicals being ingested, which triggered an emotional response.

He can smell

It's alluded to a couple of times that he does have the ability to smell things:

  1. In TNG 'Phantasms':

DATA: Everything seems to remind me of the nightmare. Objects, sounds, smells. And now I have seen elements of the dream in a waking state. I cannot explain it.

  1. TNG 'The Offspring':

DATA: Yes, very good, Lal. You have correctly processed the sense of touch. There are many fascinating experiences I wish to share with you.

LAL: Painting.

DATA: No, that is a flower, Lal. Inhale.

LAL: Smell!

DATA: Yes.

The above passage would also strongly indicate Data can smell.

So, I would expect Data can both taste and smell stimuli, at least in the form of having functional chemoreceptors. The full experience of taste and smells though elude him without the emotion chip, as all he experiences is analysis and identification of the presence of chemicals, a bit like a shopping list rather than a necessary sensation.

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    @N_Soong: Data picked up on the smell as soon as Kivas opened the little door covering the card and later when Data was alone, Data opened the door himself for another sniff.
    – sfhq_sf
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 2:32
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    "I sense injuries. The data could be called 'pain'." – Terminator 2
    – Mazura
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 2:37
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    To be fair, tasting is the biological method of detecting. "Taste" is, in fact, what detection of chemicals in food feels like. Whether we like or dislike the taste of something is how we tell good stuff from bad stuff. Since Data doesn't eat food, none of it makes a difference to him - so he can detect chemicals (i.e. taste them), but cannot attach feelings to the "taste" the way we do.
    – Misha R
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 5:47
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    Data can taste, and does so in Generations. The comment from Hero Worship was directed a child. He was likely referring to his ability to enjoy a flavor (or hate one, as he did in Generations) as "taste" rather than the ability to collect and process information with his tongue. Without the emotion chip, he can have the experience without forming an opinion it one way or the other.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 14:17
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    To piggyback @T.J.L. comment, taste for humans is simply the chemo-receptors on our tongue responding to chemicals in the foods we eat. Data's tongue can perform the same function (the emotion chip didn't replace his tongue) but it was Data's ability to feel the effect of the foods he eats that he wanted in 'Hero Worship'.
    – Xantec
    Commented May 3, 2016 at 19:31

As we see in the episode TNG: Angel One, Data is perfectly capable of smelling, and accurately distinguishing a variety of smells:

Tasha pacing; Troi and Riker sitting; Data examining knickknacks. Data's attention falls on an atomizer. Squeezing the ball, he gets a face full of mist.

DATA: [Sniffs] Interesting. An alcohol-based synthetic, artificially reproducing a floral scent.

TROI: It is called perfume, Data.

GIF of Data sniffing the perfume

and from TNG: The Most Toys

FAJO: The very first Basotile ever created by the Rodulans... centuries old. Priceless. A vase carved by the late Mark Off-Zel on Sirrie Four. The only known Roger Maris trading card from Earth circa 1962... smell it...

[Data does, reacts...]

FAJO: Bubblegum... I've preserved the scent...

Fajo opening the cabinet with the baseball card, Data sniffing

And TNG: Relics (although he's apparently unable to discern the Aldebaran whiskey by smell alone). From the original script;

Data is unable to read the label. He removes the cap and sniffs the contents... but still doesn't know what to make of it... he looks at the liquid and finally tells Scott the only thing he knows for certain.

Data sniffs the bottle, raises his eyebrows


I think the eternal rule for Data is he imitates almost all human capabilities, but can't "enjoy" them. I'll lay odds he could taste soup, tell you ingredient, in exact percentage, but couldn't tell you if it's delicious. He can probably identify breeds of roses by their smell, but can't say if he likes the scent. He plays violin, and can likely play any piece ever written, but can't any which one he thinks is better than the other.

  • I'm not sure I agree with your rose example. Data would be able to smell it, but I also think that he'd say that he "neither likes it, nor dislikes it." He wouldn't be unsure. Data knows he has no emotions; thus, "liking" is something he can't do. Commented May 4, 2016 at 1:49

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