Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Madeleine, a Smell Camera: Capture the Scents you Want with High Technology

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have had the smell of your beloved's hair captured into more than a curl-containing locket dangling from your neck? What about your dearly departed terrier, his fluffy paws and the buttery spot between his ears? And isn't the smell of Coppertone and barbeque and fat crabs in sauce the perfect memento of a summer spent vacationing off Cape Cod, washing over you like solace on a grey winter's day when everything seems dross and bleak? The way of high technology has looked like the final frontier to pin down smells, those most elusive sensual stimuli, escaping us in the destructive process that is smelling them (you inhale, they vanish soon after). Other posts in these pages have announced similar projects about capturing or transmitting smells via pixelized forms, but the Madeleine, an odor camera that captures the ambience around the object source, is named after the famous spontaneous memory brought over by the namesake dessert to French author Marcel Proust when he was tasting linded tea and the famous reminiscence he recounted in his "A la recherche du temps perdu". The Madeleine, with use in the perfume industry, aims to capture any scentscape and to inform via the most subliminal and potent sense of all: smell.

"Created by designer Amy Radcliffe, Madeleine is an “analog odor camera” based off so-called ‘Headspace Capture,’ a technology developed for the perfume industry to analyze and recreate the odor compounds that surround various objects. When a smell source is placed under the device’s glass cone, a pump extracts the smell via a plastic tube. After being drawn to Madeleine’s main unit, the smell goes through a resin trap which absorbs the particles so molecular information can be recorded. That data is expressed in a graph-like formula, which essentially contains a fingerprint of the smell. In a special lab, that formula can then be inscribed on a bronze disk to artificially reproduce the smell. The smell can also be recreated in small vials." [source]

So given the choice: What smells would you capture and recreate through this wonderful new gadget?

Special thanks to Trudie W. for alerting me to the news of this new gizmo!


  1. Wow! It was just a matter of time till this was brought to the public, but it still seems sci-fi to me!

    I'd want to capture the scent of a fragrant iris (the lovely pale lilac ones - the top notes of Infusion d'Iris about 3 minutes in are reminsiscent, but don't last very long) a peat fire, spaghnum moss, old tent canvas in the sun, old boats warmed by the sun and clean cat fur for a start

    I'm supposing this costs an arm and a leg, then you'd have to convince a lab to produce it for you, am I right?

  2. Ariadne01:23

    Yes, but even of you had the money to do it would it smell as good as your memory?

  3. Beyond imagination!! I just can't believe this could really work. But how cool if it did! I love the smell of towels that have dried outside. I just bury my nose in the warm fabric and find momentary bliss!

  4. It reminds of most technology that can either be used for good...or terrible, terrible evil.

  5. RS,

    it is out of a fairy tale for me still, even though I have read extensively on it by now.
    It's not on the counter, that's for sure, but the days when such gizmos will be sold like iPhones aren't far behind ;-)

  6. Ariadne,

    with memory being an embellishing factor due to psychological defense mechanisms, I have no doubt your question is totally legit. ;-)

  7. Tora,

    it is true and since it's used by the perfume industry the reproduction is decent enough.
    Your scent memory nugget is as good as any; a comforting reminiscence, a moment of simple pleasure. So nice!

  8. Melissa,

    LOL, we think alike; I was thinking how this could be used to actually torture subjects with the worst possible memories (weaned from them via interrogation) or as warfare via universal "foul" odors.

  9. trudie W...looks like i've been published!!!!!...thanks El..FYI i made the comment about carry grant putting perfume behind the ear!!!
    i'm not annymous any more!!!

  10. Trudie (Unknown),

    looks like it, yeah!! :-D

    Ah, such a lovely comment too. You're definitely not anonymous in my books and not happily to the readers of this blog either. :-)

    Thanks again for your comment, your email and for reading this venue. It means a lot to me.


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