The smartphone has certainly ushered in a state of hyper-connectivity, where the sharing of information over long distances, even to the other side of the world, is a simple tweet, email or Snapchat away. While these platforms offer up plenty of content for our eyes and ears, some feel that our noses are missing out on all the fun and have developed the oPhone, a Bluetooth-enabled odor emitting device designed to enable users to send smells to one another as a text or email.
Connecting to a user's smartphone via Bluetooth, the oPhone allows odors, or "oNotes", to be sent as an email, tweet or text message. It is the brainchild of Harvard Professor David Edwards and two of his design students, Rachel Field and Amy Yin, who have established Vapor Communications operating out of Le Laboratorie (Le Lab) in Paris to bring the device to market.
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It all begins with the reproduction of particular scents. With a so-called aroma expert on hand, the team deconstructs scents, such as coffee or citrus flavors, and then by arranging molecules in a certain order and at different ratios, creates what it calls aromatic profiles.
Four specially-designed "oChips" are built into the oPhone in order to translate these profiles into smells. These chips combine to allow the creation thousands of different scents, which when emitted form a cloud around six inches (15 cm) in diameter that lingers for 20 to 30 seconds.
The oPhone isn't the first device we've seen designed to allow odors to conquer the tyranny of distance. Last year we saw the Chat Perf attachment for the iPhone, which similarly enabled scents to be sent over email and text message.
The oPhone, however, does appear to offer a greater diversity of smells along with an element of surprise, as Chat Perf involves some degree of premeditation, with users required to load up the attachment with a particular scent tank in order to receive a particular smell.
In terms of finding a market for the oPhone, the team will initially target those who take aromas seriously, namely coffee aficionados and perfume manufacturers. It could also open up some interesting possibilities in the world of online shopping, where consumers would be able to take a whiff of that exotic coffee blend or new fragrance from the comfort of their own homes.
The team is planning to release a beta version of the oPhone at the end of 2014, in anticipation of a wider release next year.