Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Smellaphone being tested in Japan
(probably not April Fooling, but I can't guarantee it)

After satisfying the senses of sight and sound through video streams and music downloads, Japan's NTT Communications aims to tap into the sense of smell with a new system that allows users to send fragrances from their cellphones.

In a trial later this month, users will be able to select and send fragrance requests to an in-home unit that concocts and releases the various fragrances. The dispenser holds 16 cartridges of base fragrances that are mixed to produce the various scents like a printer mixes inks to produce other colors.

A caller chooses a scent from choices available on a Website from a cellphone. Instructions for making the scent are then transmitted to the fragrance device through infrared from the phone, and then the scent is quickly mixed and emitted.

Another option is to send the instructions via e-mail. The message is intercepted by a home gateway unit that sends the instructions to the fragrance device. With this method users can set the time and date of fragrance emission, so one can come home to the relaxing scent of lavender, for example.

There's even room for creating customized scents, which can be shared with other users through the online fragrance "playlist."

The technology is not only limited to creating a pleasant-smelling workplace or home. NTT also sees it as a way to enhance multimedia content. For example, instead of just sending an image of a bouquet of roses to a friend, one can boost the experience by sending the fragrance as well.

NTT hopes the fragrance emitter will cost about US$195 when eventually launched commercially. The company believes that fragrance is the next important medium for telecommunications, as more value is placed on high sensory information. A survey showed that 56 percent of people polled use aromatherapy or believe that it has positive benefits.

"Aromatherapy can reduce stress and help you relax, and to be able to control smell implies one has the power to manipulate feelings as well," said Akira Sakaino, from NTT Communications' Net Business Division. (info from The New York Times)

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