The American Museum of Natural History in New York was the recipient of the world’s first (?) transatlantic oPhone transmission on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Linda Tischler provides an account of the event in her June 17, 2014 article about the latest on the oPhone for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed),
At 11:31 EDT on Tuesday [June 17, 2014], an email message encoded with the scent of Paris, winged its way across the ether to land in the inbox of a Harvard professor waiting eagerly in a skull-littered basement room in New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
The onote, as such scent-embedded mail is known–originated at Le Laboratoire in Paris as a picture of a plate of macaroons and a glass of champagne, and was tagged via an iPhone app called oSnap, with the elements–tropical fruit, cocoa beans and champagne–that comprised their aroma.
messages [sic]–the aroma was, well, undeniably smelly, if a tad muddled. A hint of chocolate was there; something sort of fruity came through; the champagne would have been hard to detect without knowing what to smell for. Did it evoke wine and cookies? Not really. But, to its credit, the gadget worked.
“When you play all three scents at once, it’s sometimes hard to determine what you’re smelling,” says David Edwards, Harvard professor of idea translation and co-inventor of the device with Rachel Field, a former Harvard student.
I first mentioned David Edwards and Rachel Field along with their oPhone project in a Feb. 14, 2014 posting, which describes preliminary testing in Paris and provides links to a research paper. It seems there’s been good progress since then as the American Museum of Natural History is now preparing to host three oPhone hotspot weekends in July 2014 as Tischler notes in her article,
While potential users can currently download the app for free from the Apple app store, there’s no way yet for them to play their aromatic missives without going to an oPhone-equipped hotspot. Starting on July 12 , and continuing for three consecutive weekends, the museum will host a hotspot in New York where people can come and retrieve the onotes they’ve been sent. There will be other hotspots in Paris and Cambridge, with more to come.
Since tagging photos with scent is a skill that few people have yet mastered, the museum will also host free “scent adventures,” where an olefactorially-skilled expert — a chef, a coffee connoisseur, or a chocolatier, for example — will coach aroma newbies in how to compose a scent that resembles what they’re smelling. The app itself comes with a vocabulary of “notes”–green vegetation, grilled bread, onion, jasmine, cedar, for example–that allows users to compose more than 300,000 different scents.
Weirdly, the American Natural History Museum’s June 17, 2014 news release about the oPhone and the upcoming ‘scent’ weekends provides less detail,
For three consecutive weekends starting on July 12 , the Museum will feature an oPhone in its Sackler Educational Laboratory for Comparative Genomics and Human Origins, where visitors can try the technology and learn about how smell is processed in humans compared to our primate and hominid relatives.
It seems the museum’s weekend oPhone hotspot events came together very quickly since they are not yet (as of June 18, 2014 at 0930 hours PDT) listed in the museum’s July 2014 calendar of events.
A June 18, 2014 Harvard University news release by Alvin Powell provides some detail about the latest physical configuration for the oPhone,
The oPhone system consists of several parts. It begins with the oSnap app for iPhones (an android version is in development) that allows a user to create an oNote, consisting of a photograph and a smell created out of a palette of 32 scents available in the app that can be combined in 300,000 possible combinations.
The sender then forwards the oNote to an oPhone — the hardware portion of the enterprise — which re-creates the aroma from the oSnap app. The key component of the oPhone is the oChip, which creates the actual smell.
The oPhone looks a bit like a desk telephone, only instead of a handset, it has two small hollow towers — from which the newly created scents emerge — extending from the top.
In the hopes of making their oPhone more available the researchers and inventors have instituted an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, oPhone Duo; bringing scent to mobile messaging,
There is a special offer which expires 12 pm (noon; 1200 hours) Paris time on June 19, 2014,
LIMITED TIME OFFER – If you choose this perk between now and 12pm on June 19th Paris time, we will throw in an EXTRA PACK OF CUSTOM OCHIPS FOR FREE!!! Be among the first to buy an oPhone DUO. We’ll include one pack of oChips (replaceable aroma cartridges) that support two of our first aromatic vocabularies to get you started. What you get: 1 oPhone DUO 1 pack of Foodie I.D. oChips 1 pack of Base Notes oChips FREE SHIPPING
In two days (campaign opened June 16, 2014), they have raised $7800 towards a goal of $150,000 and a campaign deadline of July 31, 2014.