Remember Google’s April Fool’s day NoseBETA prank launch? Well, it appears yesterday’s joke is becoming tomorrow’s reality. The oPhone DUO is a “Scent-Based Mobile Messaging” system readying for launch, offering users a selection of over 300,000 scents to attach onto emails, mobile messaging, or social network updates.
The oPhone DUO is analogous to an inkjet printer, but instead of ink cartridges to print an image, the system utilizes a combination of eight scent cartridges called “oChips” to deliver simulated odors. Each oChip contains 4 aromas for a total of 32 primitive smells; from these 32 base scents over 300,000 scents can be formulated into an “aromatic vocabulary” to send to others. Theoretically, a near endless array of formulations could be explored provided enough cartridges; the oPhone will initially launch with “foodie” and “coffee” cartridges with additional themed packages planned with funding.
Since your nose loses its sensitivity to scent after a relatively short period, it’s better for an aroma to be detected in the short term,” Harvard professor and oPhone DUO co-Founder David Edwards says. “Your nose is made for olfactory tweets.”
Considering scent is arguably the strongest memory imprinting sensory experience, it’s no surprise technologists like David Edwards and Rachel Field – the co-inventors of the oPhone – are trying to integrate scent into messaging systems. Imagining virtually sampling the smell of bouquets before choosing a Mother’s Day arrangement online or a restaurant menu attached with the aromas of several dishes, and the aroma delivery system becomes more of a convincing consumerist technology.
Yet it might be the simple joy of friends embedding and sharing the smell of their foodie excursions attached to their Instagrams which may one day make systems like the oPhone+oSnap a popular expansion of how we share our lives virtually from a distance. Beyond capturing and formulating “hammer to head” scents like coffee or chocolate, the cerebral skill of capturing more ephemeral scents evoking emotional memory – the scent of a puppy’s head, the warm comforting smell of lover’s neck, the ever-changing smell of a forest in spring – could be where the oPhone DUO could transcend from the smelly equivalent of emojis and into artistry.