Tech: oSnap – Making Practical Scents

June 26, 2014
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Are you smitten by your latest experiment with lasagna? How about grabbing your phone, taking a half-dozen photos, adding a kitchen-smell tag and then posting it on Facebook before sending it out to your friends by email?

Say what? Smell-o’-vision! Sounds like the Hustler centerfold from August 1977. Believe it or not, olfactory manipulations have been attempted for a long time. Scratch and sniff is created through the process of micro-encapsulation where a chosen smell is surrounded by micro-capsules which easily disintegrate when rubbed. The rubbing releases the micro-encapsulated bubbles, freeing the aroma. In this way the smell can be preserved for extremely long periods of time.

Tech: oSnap - Making Practical Scents

While there were hundreds of companies that put out Scratch and Sniff stickers, the most well known are the originators. There was a fad in the 80s for a product called Sniffys by CTP Labs. It was a gimmick that faded, but, more recently, the BBC came up with a gimmick of using Scratch and Sniff cards to accompany a new television series called Filthy Cities.  Viewers were invited to use the aroma cards at home to experience the nasty smells of Medieval London and Revolutionary Paris while traveling back in time to the ‘filthy cities’ of yesteryear. The four aromas included sewage, an 18th Century tannery, Marie Antoinette’s perfume and Pong de Paris. The fragrances and scratch and sniff cards were developed by The Aroma Company Europe in Oxfordshire using aroma touch-to-smell technology.

This is the operative idea behind the looming release of the new oSnap app that will allow you to add fragrances of all kinds to messages. Tap the screen with your fingernail and you can select the single or blended scents you want to send, which are custom-created exclusively for you by the oPhone. This marvelous gadget can blend up to eight different aromas out of a total of 32 root fragrances that are all combinable in a single message, offering up the possibilities of over 300,000 conceivable smells.

oSnap’s inventor, Associate Professor David Edwards of Harvard University, the bestselling author of The Lab: Creativity & Culture, told New Scientist that early working models have focused on natural root aromas like food and coffee smells. Using these aromas is just as if you were utilizing a sort of Lazy Susan flavor wheel. A good example would be my Pesto, for which I use basil leaves, garlic, walnuts, garlic, smoked Parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Each is easy to locate, save for the cheese, which is a bit more specific and necessitates more than a few blending tests.

Tech: oSnap - Making Practical Scents

It will work like this: once a friend receives an oNote message they tap the icon and view the pesto image and its affiliated fragrances. What’s essential is that you be receiving the aromas in Bluetooth range of an oPhone. Hence, they can download your message and smell your fabulous pesto.  Your brilliant oPhone – containing small chips filled with a chemical version of the 32 scents will send forth an aroma shot after a gust of air is passed over them – will cost around US$149 when it goes on sale in April 2015.  On the opening day of the oPhone launch, free hotspots will be set up that users can visit to download and smell their aromas in locations such as Paris, France, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and The American Museum of Natural History in New York. Other introductory hotspots are still being lined up as I write.

Even those of you with no desire to deal with the kitchen or colognes ought to recognize that this is a piece of the technology pie that will ultimately have a profound affect on all of us. The digital conquest of our senses is inevitable. As crude as this may sound, perhaps my happiest times as a teenage boy and then a man were post-coital enjoyment of smelling the women I’d just been with on my fingers. The very idea that I might be able to keep the familiar smell of a loved one available forever is a wonderful one.

What’s available right now is extremely limited, but you can check out where it’s headed by going to iTunes.

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