Scenting A Text Message

You may be doing it soon:

The obvious starting point for smell communication is the smartphone, a ubiquitous device we already bling to death, and for which a growing panoply of notificationsvibrations and ambient signals are added with each new release. Japan’s Scentee sells a plug-in atomizer for smartphones (currently selling for around $35 on Amazon.jp), which can be customized when triggered by an app to spritz standard aromas such as rose and lavender, as well as more unique tastes of curry, coffee or cinnamon roll, costing just over $5 for 100 sprays. The company suggests its product be shared by “lovers,” and lists use cases such as getting a whiff of your chosen scent each time you get a Facebook like or, as part of a wakeup alarm. There’s no word yet on whether it will come to the US.

Liz Stinson speaks to David Edwards about the oPhone, one of several “smellable” devices currently being developed:

There’s one big problem when it comes to doing this, says Edwards: “Odor transmission to date is not smart,” he explains. “If I give you the odor of a pizza, I have a difficult time immediately after giving you the odor of the sea and then giving you the odor of a cactus.” Basically what Edwards is saying, and what we already know from letting trash sit in our apartments a day too long, is that odors linger. Which makes it hard to craft any sort of cohesive and decipherable olfactive narrative.

The oPhone solves this problem with its main innovation: the oChip. This little cartridge, about the size of a fingernail, contains olfactive information that can produce hundreds (and soon thousands, says Edwards) of odor signals. The idea is that these chips can be installed in the oPhone, and via a bluetooth-connected app called oTracks, scents can be sent to yourself or an oPhone-carrying friend with the push of a button.