What’s the deal with smellophones?

Mobile phones that can send and receive scent are part of a wider topic of digital scents, fragranced e-mails and the smell-o-web. After the initial hype, companies such as Digiscents went bust and one of the rare ones still barely surviving in the US is TriSenx However, in Asia, this sort of technology seems to be going through a bit of a renaissance. You can see an interesting masters thesis on the topic here and an informative overview here.

There have been several reports over the last three or four years about these phones. Annoyingly, these usually end up uncritically dismissing the idea with examples along the line “hi it’s me, yes, I’m in a public toilet, how did you guess?” But, who makes phone calls while they are in the loo anyway? Also, most of these phones have (or are planned to have) the ability to receive and send certain pre-programmed smells, not just any odd smells that happen to be around at the time of the call. I think this would be quite a cool feature, to have a scented text message, to listen to your favourite songs accompanied by favourite scents, to know who is calling you not just by the ringtone but also the ring-scent.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the smellophones I found browsing the web. If anyone knows of any more feel free to comment!

Existing smellophones

Released in 2007 SO703i Sony Bravia “aroma phone” comes with changeable scented sheets of 9 aromas that can be combined with 9 different panels, aimed at providing users with a therapeutic experience.

Hyundai MP 280” the perfume phone” released in 2005 has a built-in perfume container that releases scent when the mobile is in use. It comes equipped with a syringe which can be used to refill the container.

Planned smellophones

NNT Communications are testing Mobile Fragrance Communication – a Kaori Tsushin mobile phone: “a mobile version of an existing service for enjoying downloaded audiovisual content together with specific fragrances that are emitted by a dedicated device.” This service allows download of scent information on a mobile phone, which then uses infrared link to communicate with a small aromatron that releases ordered scents. Further feature of this system is that it allows a user to set the release of fragrance at their home remotely using their mobile phone, for example on their way home from work.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, the Institute of Sensory Analysis and Marketing Consultancy in Göttingen (ISI) and Convisual, a specialist in interactive services announced a patent for software in April 2008 that allows sending scent via mobile phones. Using a special scent card this would allow sending scented text (SMS) and picture (MMS) messages as well as ringtones and games over mobile phones. As early as 2010 you could be sending your Valentine a rose-scented “I love you” and your friends a cinnamon-scented “Merry Christmas” texts. To avoid stink spam, users will have an option of rejecting suspicious stinky-texts.

Similarly, Motorola patented a Smellophone in 2007: a mobile that contains a small fragrance cartridge that would use heat from the battery to release scents. In 2006, Samsung also patented the concept of a mobile phone with a perfume spraying apparatus that could release scent when mobile phone rings.

Concept smellophones

Back in 2005 in Nokia’s design competition one of the top entries was a smell-enabled design Nokia Scentsory : Scentsory mode that uses scent detectors “allows you to see, hear, feel and smell your caller’s environment”.

Currently, Korean scientists at the Soonchunhyang University are working on the concept of cellular phone robot It can use olfactory cues to alert the owner and also “has 12 micronozzles to to emit just the right odor to identify the caller”.

Lavender design is another concept for Samsung that would have a built in perfume dispenser.

Mićo Tatalović

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