tijon

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Digital Scents and Teleolfaction

"One day soon you may be able to capture a fragrance snapshot of your environment and send it attached to a text message or email". Thus begins the fantasy of digitalised scents, the elusive captured into pixels that can be stored and tranmitted, a concept that up till very recently seemed as wild as colonising Alpha Centaur with men.
Still, cell phone companies are on the act already. The winner of 2005 Nokia innovation competition submitted a Scentpohone: One which was able to transmit the scents of the environment of the caller to the receiver of the phone-call. Samsung and Motorola each hold a patent for similar projects. Motorola's 2007 patent is for a small fragrance cartridge which releases aromas into the air taking energy in the form of heat from the telephone's battery, while Samsung's 2006 patent is for a perfume spraying apparatus. The hidden stuff is that patents delay the commercialisation of technologies by antagonistic companies, even though it's generally accepted that this concept will be exploited in the near future such as in the case of smell chip cards (which may be able to encompass 100 scents!) comparable to SIM cards; an idea that would find practical uses for the visually and audibly impaired as well as the scent-enthusiasts.

Listen to this: "Sitting right at your desk, you’ll soon be able to smell the roses—or baking bagels or honey-roasted nuts or crowded subway platforms—using DigiScents’ new iSmell, "a personal scent synthesizer." Now in beta testing, iSmell is a peripheral device you plug into a computer the same way you plug in speakers and printers. If you visited a Web site offering a whiff of fresh chocolate cake, for example, iSmell could pull down the code it needs to mix chemicals in just the right way and then release the designer aroma while you work on the Net. Or you could invent your own scents and add them to e-mails or a short story".[source] This not all too recent: "In 2000, Aromajet developed Pinoke, a device able to recreate smells associated with computer games. Digital signals written into software code trigger the aroma generator to emit precise amounts of the appropriate aroma. The American company also created E-Commerce Kiosk that have fragrance generating devices mounted inside to install the perfumes and cosmetics aisle of department stores. One of the ideas under development is a mother's scent programmed into an aroma generating device placed near a crib to help comfort a baby". [source] Adobe released its Net sniffer, Odorshop in 2007 but it didn't receive coverage. RealAroma's Web site (Real Aroma") advertises a box which ises "Real Aroma Text Markup Language" (and is even functioning on slow modems). Macintosh CEO Steve Jobs has also announced that he aims for future MaC computers to be able to handle odours the same way they're now able to play CDs. Art is also exploiting the concept: Usman Haque designed Scents of Space in 2002, a smell system which allows for 3D placement of fragrances without dispersion (as pictured in the top pic).

Jenny Tillotson, a researcher and designer at the University of the Arts in London, England, is responsible for materialising the concept and she compares it to an olfactory i-Pod (which sounds utterly cool!) "Tillotson produced the world's first interactive scent outfit. She called her prototype dress 'Smart Second Skin'. (You can read about this here) Smart because it senses the wearer's mood, 'second skin' because it interacts with the wearer and their environment". Another gadget produced by Tillotson is the button-sized 'eScent', based on bio-sensors monitoring changes in physiological factors (blood pressure, respiration and skin's electric potential) and signaling the lab-on-a-chip devices when there is some change in the above to accordingly adjust the released scent. "Though currently crude at detecting more subtle mood changes, the idea is that eScent will eventually be able to detect stress or anxiety and then release appropriate scents to soothe the wearer", as three quearters of our emotions are affected by smells, as the research team indicates (Sounds awfully much, doesn't it?), as well as help in coping with certain ailments.
"Another application is eMos, a button-sized gadget which senses the frequency of sound made by an approaching mosquito and triggers the release of a small amount of repellent. Tillotson says that she hopes that eScent and eMos will be on the market within the next five years".

And if that doesn't sound promising enough, there are also at least two companies who use digitalised scents: Storing primary smell blocks in cardridges and then combining them into a special built-in chamber before emitting them in the atmosphere, ScentDome uses this technology for scent-enabled websites as such as ScentTv.tv (a multi-media portal only reachable from the US for the moment), while TriSenx is a software provider for websites, but for now the most popular product is an audio CD almbut with an accompanying scent-track.

Still the possibilities for TeleOlfaction are huge, gaming and entertainment included: Imagine watching a TV series or film or a video/computer game and being able to smell the environment alongside the heroes, a concept already embraced by Japanese advertising since 2008, to astonishingly positive effect.
It looks like the future holds many scented surprises still.

Related Reading (links taken from we-make-money-not-art.com): A special headset that lets holidaymaker experience surround vision, sounds and smells, the IQ clothes , Cyranose 320, an electronic nose device to diagnose pneumonia and sinusitis, SNIF a fragrance patch that release more or less perfume depending on what kind of space you�re in, Zen-sorial car, the Sensory Gateway, robotic Judas roach, 3D scents.

Quotes from an article named "Digital scents" by Mico Tatalovic for Cosmos Online.

pics via greenamerican.us , we make money not art, and scentcom.co.il

13 comments:

  1. I have to say, I have mixed feelings about all this. While the Frag Hag part of me is very excited by the idea of being able to just click a link and get a whiff of a new perfume I want to try, it still won't tell me how it smells on my skin. And when I think about how visually and aurally saturated the modern environment is (try to find a public space that doesn't have music playing in it, just try), I'm not sure I like the idea of businesses being able to just decide what I smell. Personally, I like moving through the world in my own wonderfully-scented bubble.

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  2. SS,

    that's a definitely salient point! I think the technology has a purpose (imagine the handicaped and the visually-auditorily impaired using a scent-phone that might alert them to important, life-saving stuff) but it could be exploited by advertisers to extremes that would oversaturate our existence, true.

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  3. It sounds like one of those useless funky gadgets.
    The only point is that it could be of use to disabled people but I suspect there'd be more drawbacks than advantages, smell and taste are too subjectively read, I suspect unless there's something singular, say, vinegar for House on fire, ammonia for WW III started.
    I however remain skeptical to the rest of uses - reading from the conductivity of my skin what mood I have and what scent I need? It's like that fridge that can read barcodes and tell me that I shouldn't eat this or that because I've had enough fat calories today. In theory, a helpful aid for maintaining healthy lifestyle, in real life - only until I kick it to death.

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  4. Anonymous18:57

    I am admittedly a Luddite so my first reaction to this is confusion and sceptisim. I do not see how it is helpful for someone who is stressed to have the little scenting device sense the stress and release the odour of chamomile (for example) when the individual hates the smell of chamomile. I am sure, however, that these wonders will be entirely programmable for the users preferences.

    I must also lament the entire ritual of applying scent, as I truly believe that is part of the pleasure: the sight of a beautiful bottle on the dresser as compared to the blue plastic thingamig in the picture, the tactile pleasure of applying perfume and the mystery of how it changes on the skin.

    Now what would really be great is a device that can turn OFF somebody else's smell. This would be fantastic for those allergic to perfume or just in disagreement with their cubicle-mate's taste in fragrance.

    Natalia

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  5. There is an achilles heel to all of this - there's no such thing as "fundamental scents that can be combined to create every other scent." At least not yet. It's not like mixing red-green-blue light (or cyan-magenta-yellow pigment) to create any color.

    Digiscents, who attempted to get iSmell to market in the early 00's failed miserably at it and went out of business. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISmell

    Manufacturers are pretty much limited to a pallette of "canned" fragrances - i.e. if you have 12 scents you can make any 12 of those scents or any combination of those 12 scents - but you can't make EVERYTHING.

    Maybe someday they'll crack this code (Luca Turin seems to be on the right path) but as good as the tech gets it's not going to do what you think it'll do anytime soon.

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  6. Oh!!! It is really a great and so awesome article. I really like it. It sounds like one of those useless funky gadgets.
    The only point is that it could be of use to disabled people but I suspect there'd be more drawbacks than advantages, smell and taste are too subjectively read, I suspect unless there's something singular, say, vinegar for House on fire, ammonia for WW III started.
    I however remain skeptical to the rest of uses - reading from the conductivity of my skin what mood I have and what scent I need? It's like that fridge that can read barcodes and tell me that I shouldn't eat this or that because I've had enough fat calories today. In theory, a helpful aid for maintaining healthy lifestyle, in real life - only until I kick it to death. Thanks again.
    ==========================
    vancouver flowers

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  7. Liisa,

    as always the right "black" tone to it that brightens my day :-))All this gadgetizing sounds nice theoretically, only it can get really like patrolling sometimes. I would hate that effing fridge myself!!!

    (hi there, how are you?)

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  8. Natalia,

    actually I don't think they're aiming to substitute the ritual of applying perfume. It's bringing too much money to stop it. I think they're aiming the scene of gaming, entertainment, infomercials and the like.

    But I love your idea of screening out other people's scents if detestable, how cool would that be?!!

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  9. Brian,

    very true. I think in the sources I read it was more or less compared to a printer's technology relying on cyan-magenta-yellow, but we perfume enthusiasts know it doesn't work that way. Smell is more complex in nuance and psychological emoting. Therefore I do think it needs finetuning still, as you say. Perhaps however it might be used for infomercials or for gaming in its simpler form (Earthy notes for dirt/hurt in battle, generic good smells for scenes of repose, metallic air for space fiction etc.)

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  10. Ankur,

    did it really take you a long time to repeat someone else's comment that was posted very wittily just above? I know you must be hell-bent to advertise Vancouver flowers (and you already did this once again without my slapping your wrist) but this is the last time I am leaving such a "fake" comment of yours on this space.
    If you want to advertise, have the balls to email and do it formally and maybe, just maybe, I might consent. Or, come to think of it, I won't, just because I don't like the sneaky way of posing as a legit commentator.

    Hope I was crystal clear, eh??

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  11. Helg,
    there should be a gadget to turn off the trolls and spammers. Yesterday I went livid when some Anony Mouse basically threatened me to sue my ass out because I'm using a nom du blog which is not my name and so I'm not that person and that I am thus not allowed to use that name. Wtf?
    Otherwise... so-so. Fighting with SAD, drinking coffee in amounts that should be illegal, writing bits and pieces of a biology textbook and an essay on Hugh of St. Victor and nudibranch slugs. The usual mixture.

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  12. L,

    unbelievable! You'd think anyone would know that noms de blogs are en masse invented names, and in your case why the double ii in Liisa if otherwise?

    It sounds like you're awfully busy and sustaining on coffee (Doesn't that worsen SAD though? Keeping you awake etc) Keep a watch on yourself, we want you in top form!

    BTW, what are "nudibranch" slugs?

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  13. Helg,
    Liisa is a normal Finnish name, that language does weird things to wovels.
    Nudibranch slugs... well, I'm editing a biology textbook and I was trying to add something interesting and while looking for ideas, I discovered a whole new world. Mind you, I'm rather known for being afraid of water and no force on the Earth would make me go diving in the sea... but I was plainly fascinated. Check seaslugs.net, it's rather scholarly type of site but there are pictures somewhere there:D

    I am busy, that's life. However, I played for a while yesterday. I had an idea of a fragrance revolving around wisteria and incense for a while... and it came out rather well. I also made a sort of heavy floral with chocolate undertones.

    ReplyDelete

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