Smart Scents

With the advancement of technology, product developers have now made it possible for scents to become a part of digital communication. Here is a look at the various options in this category

By 2016, the idea of sending scented messages through digital devices is expected to hit mainstream. Work on transforming this concept into a reality is already underway and is expected to act as a catalyst in ushering the dawn of the era of sensory communication. As of now, product developers are preparing to offer a variety of items to consumers that will allow scent to become a part of digital messaging.

Digital scents: The initial attempt

The idea of integrating scents with the existing options of digital communications is not new. A few years ago, in 1999, a firm called DigiScents unveiled a device that allowed users to trigger a limited range of smells when they opened an email. Other companies, in Tokyo, San Diego and Tel Aviv, also confirmed to working on commercially viable smell technology in a form that can be incorporated into the life of the end user very easily. Since then a lot has been done in this domain. Let’s take a look at some of the devices that have been developed with the vision of reintroducing the sense of smell into the medium of digital communication.

The smell oPhone

ophoneOther prominent offerings in this category include oPhone, a device created by Harvard University professor David Edwards, along with a team of his students. His creation was introduced to the world at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on June 17 last year. One of the first experiments with the device with was sending a scented message sent from Paris to New York. This scent-messaging platform works on the unique concept of tagging photographs with scents selected from a pre-loaded palette of aromas. These fragrant messages can then be sent through email or even social media networks. However, in order to playback these scented messages, the receivers will require a similar oPhone setup on their end as well.

As part of its launch in Boston, the oPhone team also introduced a first of its kind olfactory social media network, initially as a free app, that allowed anyone to compose and send a smell note by text or email. But, the receiver had to download the composition from hotspots set up exclusively for the launch in Boston.

Additionally, each scent in the oPhone setup is designed to last roughly 10 seconds, about the same time that people take to sense an aroma. This also ensures a personalised olfactive experience for the end user. If the picture being sent is tagged with multiple aromas, the scents will be played one after the other. The device will be able to generate three thousand unique aromas using its smart technology. Edwards has also founded a start-up by the name of Vapor Communications with two of his other colleagues that will focus on mass manufacturing the device and facilitating its availability at a cheaper cost.

oBracelet and others

This is another initiative by the Vapor Communications team. Designed to look like just another bracelet, this accessory comes with a smart chip that is removable. This chip will be able to release various scents depending on the preference of the end user. Vapor Communications is expected to introduce it by the end of this year. It has also been working on some other gadgets which include scents in story books. Their first work in this category is called ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears: The Smelly Version,’ and was displayed at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens for quite some time. Through this digital book, readers can tap to smell scents associated to various situations.

Chat Perf

Another device developed by a Japanese company, Chat Perf allowsChat Perf the user to transmit smells over the cyberspace. Currently, the application is available only for iPhone users. Developed by Chaku Perfume Co. Ltd, this device comes with a simple setup that can be conveniently attached to the iPhone. Chat Perf comes in the form of an attachable device. This setup includes an atomiser and a smell tank and fits snugly into your iPhone’s dock port. Once connected, it gives the user access to a variety of fragrances in just a few clicks. Basically, with this application, users can actually attach a soothing scent to the text messages that they send provided the receiver also has a similar setup. Meanwhile, Chat Perf developers are also exploring complex integrations of the device, such as with gaming. The company has also introduced a software development kit for the mobile smell-o-vision, so anyone can theoretically integrate their apps with the device.



One more application which has been in the market for quite sometime is The Scentee. Users investing in this application will get a white dongle that plugs into a smartphone’s headphone jack as well as three scent cartridges. The device is compact and extremely easy to use. The liquid fragrance cartridges are converted into aerosol by a tiny motor and release the scent based on the input received by the user. Each cartridge lasts for about 200 sprays and users are also able to select spray intervals and duration.

Concluding note

Though the work on integrating scents in digital devices is still in its nascent stages, the developments in this domain indicate that it is soon to become a popular trend. Once the idea becomes commercially viable and spreads globally, perfume makers are also expected to use these devices to advertise new fragrances adding a different vertical to their marketing campaigns.


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