Japanese telecommunications company NTT Com is currently seeking volunteers to test a pungent bit of kit which produces different smells at the request of programs downloaded from the Internet. There will be two separate trials of the i-Aroma conducted from mid-July to the end of August. One course will send out smells matching "the rhythm of daily life" while the other will release odors based on an ancient astrological system. Sadly though, only those living in Japan can take part.
The i-Aroma is loaded with 6 base oils and attached to a PC via USB cable. The volunteer connects the PC to the Internet and special courses designed by astrologist Ryuji Kagami or aroma therapist Kaoru Sasak will determine what scents are mixed by the device and released into the air. A remote control on the i-Aroma can be used to dispense stored, favorite smells when not connected to a PC.
NTT Com is hoping to attract around 360 volunteers for the Fragrance Communication trials, which will be supervised by Kagami (whose course will match a scent with a special message displayed on the PC from the dominant astrological planet at a given hour) and Sasak (whose software will emit fragrances representing various aspects of daily life such as walking, working and sleeping). It's envisaged that the devices will also be able to produce fragrant blends in response to special instructions from web-based content distribution services.
And if you're thinking that you've heard something like this before, you'd be quite right. A company called DigiScents tried this sort of thing for a while back in the late 1990s. Its product was called the iSmell scent box and the company had big dreams of scent-enabled websites being developed and programmers including instructions for the release of different smells at various points throughout video games and much more. Sadly DigiScents failed to attract the investment it needed and went bust in 2001. With the i-Aroma, the concept seems to have been given a new lease of life.
Will NTT Com enjoy the sweet smell of success with the Fragrance Communication package? Well, the company has already launched a scent-producing store signage system, piloted a mobile fragrance communication system and premiered smell-enhanced movies in Japanese theaters. With the i-Aroma, a more personal olfactory experience is on the way for volunteers lucky enough to be involved in the trial. The age of the pong producing PC has dawned.
Where do I sign up?
If you live in Japan, have a PC with Windows XP or Vista and would like to sign up to test the device, you have until July 12th. If astrology is your interest then register at Kagami's page or to enjoy the smells from everyday life, visit Sasak's site to sign up.