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I “Scent” You a Message

KF BS 12-2014Can you imagine being able to smell your smartphone messages? Thanks to the design center Le Laboratoire in Paris and a team of scientists, artists and some folks from Harvard University who make up the Olfactive Project, the idea of sending pleasing sniffs to our friends is becoming a reality.

On June 17th, Harvard University’s David Edwards and Rachel Field transmitted the world’s first transatlantic “scent message” from Paris to New York on a new device by Vapor Communications called the “oPhone”, (o for olfactory). The system will serve as a personalized and customized take on the classic Smell-O-Vision model. Smell-O-Vision was a system that released odor during the projection of a film so that the viewer could smell what was happening in the movie. The technique was created by Hans Laube and made its only appearance in the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, produced by Mike Todd, Jr., son of film producer Mike Todd.

Real world uses could include things such as adding smell to immersive museum exhibits or using enticing aromas in advertisements to lure customers, but for the vast majority of us, this technology should just prove to be remarkably fun – like an olfactory emoji.

The oPhone, which sold for $149 in a pre-order that closed in July, is expected to hit the market next spring. Each oPhone can be loaded with eight replaceable oChips which act like a printer’s toner cartridge. An oChip contains four wicks, each of which is infused with a basic building block scent, such as buttery, cocoa beans or tropical fruit. For now the aromatic palette is exclusively centered on food and coffee, but Edwards plans to diversify the offerings with future releases.

An app called oSnap is then used to tag photography by combining these 32 primary scents into more than 300,000 custom creations. You might, for example, replicate the unique aroma of a cheeseburger by selecting meaty, cheesy and grilled toast.

When the signal reaches the phone, a tiny fan is triggered and the relevant wicks spin in the air current. The transmitted smell then puffs out of the receiver, dissipating after only a few seconds, just long enough for the nose to detect it. Eventually users will be able to send messages through email, Twitter and Facebook.



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