Filed Under:

You've Got Mail, And It Smells Like 18th Century Paris

Play associated audio

First there was the Smell-O-Vision, a technology that brought aromas to movie theater audiences. Then there was Scratch 'n' Sniff, paper you could smell.

Now, a company in Paris has developed a mobile phone that sends aromatic text messages. It's called the oPhone — "o" for olfactory.

David Edwards, the mastermind behind the oPhone, is a Harvard University professor and the founder of Le Laboratoire in Paris. He and his students thought up a way to transmit all kinds of aromas, "from bread and flowers to the smell of Paris 300 years ago," he says.

These aromas are preprogrammed into the oPhone device, which has four small fingernail-sized chips that act as "ink cartridges for aroma," Edwards says. Air flows through them in different ways to produce various smells.

On one end, a user can type a message and attach a related smell, and someone with an oPhone on the receiving end will get a small whiff.

Edwards says communication is just missing something without a smell. "Clearly, [there's] a big difference between me saying to you the word 'croissant,' or even showing you a picture of a croissant, and you smelling a croissant," he says.

He's working with businesses like coffee shops to make the oPhone part of the consumer experience. Edwards says oPhones will be for sale in late fall, although you can't record your own smells yet.

"However, being able to transmit the aroma of what I'm experiencing through a kind of a camera is imaginable, so I think that will be coming," he says.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Barry Meier: "Missing Man"

Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.

NPR

5,000-Year-Old Chinese Beer Recipe Revealed

Researchers discovered ancient "beer-making tool kits" in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Analyses of funnels, pots and jugs show the brewers were using pretty advanced techniques.
WAMU 88.5

The Fight for D.C.'s Budget Freedom

Last week, a House committee with oversight of the District passed legislation that would block the ability of the Council to spend its own tax dollars.

WAMU 88.5

The U.S. Expands Ties To Vietnam

President Obama lifts the embargo against U.S. arms sales to Vietnam: Please join us to talk about what closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam mean for trade, leverage on human rights and growing concerns over China's military expansion.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.