The oPhone lets you send smellygrams. Credit: AMNH / D. Finnin Just imagine a day when you could wake up and smell the coffee without the hassle of boiling a kettle. Well, you’ve not got long to wait because the "oPhone" — currently in the funding stage on Indiegogo — can do just that. The technology, developed by Harvard University professor David Edwards, uses an iPhone app called oSnap (available to download now).
The app with an Instagram-style camera captures the image, which is then tagged with a corresponding smell and received through the oPhone. Currently, the app contains 32 different smells, with the potential to combine up to eight at any one time giving a total of 300,000 different aromas. Edwards and his team sent the first champagne and passion fruit macaron-scented message from Paris to New York earlier this month. Here, the expert explains to Metro why he "scents" a new era of messaging, entertainment and marketing.
Is communicating through smell not a bit of a gimmick?
We happen to communicate intensely through smells. We wouldn’t be here today if we didn’t have the ability to sense the world around us. That’s one of the reasons that we launched the oPhone in the Museum of Natural History in New York.
Is this the modern day equivalent of spraying perfume on a card or handwritten letter?
Yeah, there are lots of examples of where we use aromas to communicate. Letters are a very personal and emotional kind of tagging. But we see a platform for longer form aroma compositions that accompany books and songs that are very much a part of life. So I could be eating a meal and have a long olfactory composition that accompanies that meal.
So are we going to see aromas used in the entertainment industry?
Yes, aromas are going to be an important part of product placement in the future: it will be used for media like books and films.
And what about in terms of marketing fragrances?
Absolutely. Anything that has a big aroma proposition like fragrances, coffee, wine and chocolate. Because walking into the store and being hit by the aroma is part of the sensual and consumer pleasure. Those businesses and transactions are moving online, so their ability to communicate with consumers goes down a lot, so this is a great solution.