Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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New 'oPhone' Has to be Smelled to Be Believed

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A new technology expected to go on sale by the end of the year enables users to mix and match a variety of scent options to allow users to not only see, but smell, a message sent to them. NY1's Adam Balkin filed the following report.

A historic scent has been sent. What you are witnessing is being billed as the first smell transmitted across the Atlantic.

"A la Alexander Graham Bell and so forth, we decided to send the world's first sensorial message, a scent based message from Paris to New York and New York to Paris," says David Edwards of oPhone.

It was done through an iPhone app called oSnap and a device called the oPhone, a system set up by Harvard Professor David Edwards and some of his research students. Through the oSnap app, you take a picture of something and then tag it with a smell by mixing and matching a combination of 32 scent options. Then, send it as an oNote email, and the receiver, if near the oPhone, can see and smell your image.

"You can mix up to eight of those 32, and that gives you up to 300,000 options," Edwards says. "And so just with that vocabulary alone, there's lots of options, and you can create very surprising scents and pretty accurately capture most food."

As far as practical applications, developers actually say they have several in mind, from making you a wine connoisseur - it could help train your nose - to medical uses.

"Aroma has a major physiological effect, has a big connection to memory, and so for Alzheimer's and other kinds of memory loss kinds of conditions, I think there's a role for the oPhone," Edwards says.

The oSnap app is available as a free download now for iPhones for you to tag and send photos, which the viewer can at least see and imagine what they'd be smelling. Text of your scents scroll as part of a short video clip.

The oPhone itself is expected to go on sale by the end of the year for about $200. Until then, developers are setting up aroma hotspots for people to try it out. The first, in the U.S., will be located where that history was made, at the American Museum of Natural History in the Big Apple.

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