Having had a tussle with a fellow student some years ago about what constituted multimedia, I wanted to discuss smell as a possible means of communication and he adamantly disagreed (he won), these two items that feature the sense of smell are of particular interest, especially (tongue firmly in cheek) as one of these items may indicate ahead of my time.
The first is about about a phone-like device that sends scent (from a Feb. 11, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily),
A Paris laboratory under the direction of David Edwards, Michigan Technological University alumnus, has created the oPhone, which will allow odors — oNotes — to be sent, via Bluetooth and smartphone attachments, to oPhones across the state, country or ocean, where the recipient can enjoy American Beauties or any other variety of rose.
It can be sent via email, tweet, or text.
Edwards says the idea started with student designers in his class at Harvard, where he is a professor.
“We invite young students to bring their design dreams,” he says. “We have a different theme each year, and that year it was virtual worlds.”
The all-female team came up with virtual aromas, and he brought two of the students to Paris to work on the project. Normally, he says, there’s a clear end in sight, but with their project no one had a clue who was going to pay for the research or if there was even a market.
A Feb. 11, 2014 Michigan Technological University news release by Dennis Walikainen, which originated the news item, provides more details about the project development and goals,
“We create unique aromatic profiles,” says Blake Armstrong, director of business communications at Vapor Communications, an organization operating out of Le Laboratorie (Le Lab) in Paris. “We put that into the oChip that faithfully renders that smell.”
Edwards said that the initial four chips that will come with the first oPhones can be combined into thousands different odors—produced for 20 to 30 seconds—creating what he calls “an evolution of odor.”
The secret is in accurate scent reproduction, locked in those chips plugged into the devices. Odors are first captured in wax after they are perfected using “The Nose”– an aroma expert at Le Lab, Marlène Staiger — who deconstructs the scents.
For example, with coffee, “the most universally recognized aroma,” she replaces words like “citrus” or “berry” with actual scents that will be created by ordering molecules and combining them in different percentages.
In fact, Le Lab is working with Café Coutume, the premier coffee shop in Paris, housing baristas in their building and using oPhones to create full sensory experiences.
“Imagine you are online and want to know what a particular brand of coffee would smell like,” Edwards says. “Or, you are in an actual long line waiting to order. You just tap on the oNote and get the experience.”
The result for Coutume, and all oPhone recipients, is a pure cloud of scent close to the device. Perhaps six inches in diameter, it is released and then disappears, retaining its personal and subtle aura.
And there other sectors that could benefit, Edwards says.
“Fragrance houses, of course, culinary, travel, but also healthcare.”
He cites an example at an exhibition last fall in London when someone with brain damage came forward. He had lost memory, and with it his sense of taste and smell. The oPhone can help bring that memory back, Edwards says.
“We think there could be help for Alzheimer’s patients, related to the decline and loss of memory and olfactory sensation,” he says.
There is an image accompanying the news release which I believe are variations of the oPhone device,You can find David Edwards’ Paris lab, Le Laboratoire (Le Lab), ici. From Le Lab’s homepage,
Opened since 2007, Le Laboratoire is a contemporary art and design center in central Paris, where artists and designers experiment at frontiers of science. Exhibition of works-in-progress from these experiments are frequently first steps toward larger scale cultural humanitarian and commercial works of art and design.
Le Laboratoire was founded in 2007 by David Edwards as the core-cultural lab of the international network, Artscience Labs.
The second item is concerned with some research from l’Université de Montréal as a Feb. 11, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily notes,
According to Simona Manescu and Johannes Frasnelli of the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology, an odour is judged differently depending on whether it is accompanied by a positive or negative description when it is smelled. When associated with a pleasant label, we enjoy the odour more than when it is presented with a negative label. To put it another way, we also smell with our eyes!
This was demonstrated by researchers in a study recently published in the journal Chemical Senses.
A Feb. 11, 2014 Université de Montréal news release, which originated the news item, offers details about the research methodology and the conclusions,
For their study, they recruited 50 participants who were asked to smell the odours of four odorants (essential oil of pine, geraniol, cumin, as well as parmesan cheese). Each odour (administered through a mask) was randomly presented with a positive or negative label displayed on a computer screen. In this way, pine oil was presented either with the label “Pine Needles” or the label “Old Solvent”; geraniol was presented with the label “Fresh Flowers” or “Cheap Perfume”; cumin was presented with the label “Indian Food” or “Dirty Clothes; and finally, parmesan cheese was presented with the label of either the cheese or dried vomit.
The result was that all participants rated the four odours more positively when they were presented with positive labels than when presented with negative labels. Specifically, participants described the odours as pleasant and edible (even those associated with non-food items) when associated with positive labels. Conversely, the same odours were considered unpleasant and inedible when associated with negative labels – even the food odours. “It shows that odour perception is not objective: it is affected by the cognitive interpretation that occurs when one looks at a label,” says Manescu. “Moreover, this is the first time we have been able to influence the edibility perception of an odour, even though the positive and negative labels accompanying the odours showed non-food words,” adds Frasnelli.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Now You Like Me, Now You Don’t: Impact of Labels on Odor Perception by Simona Manescu, Johannes Frasnelli, Franco Lepore, and Jelena Djordjevic. Chem. Senses (2013) doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjt066 First published online: December 13, 2013
This paper is behind a paywall.