Our technological communication has historically been limited to the big three - sight, sound, and touch. Today there are a few product developers working on the next frontier: smell.
Scentee has already launched a smartphone accessory that allows friends to send each other scents through an attachment with replaceable cartridges that fits into the headphone jack. The olfactory choices are strawberry, rose, coffee, lavender, and rosemary. Once the Scentee adapter is up and running, users can program it to release scents synced with Facebook likes, text messages, or phone calls. The coffee scent, they suggest, can be paired with a morning alarm. Friends can also choose a scent to accompany a message -- roses for an apology, for example.
This fall Vapor Communications will release its oPhone Duo, a tabletop device that emits scents that users will choose to accompany incoming texts, photos, and other media. The oPhone will come with a wider range of scents packaged in what they are calling oChips ('o' = olfactory), where users can buy a handful of smells at a time, usually grouped by similarity. The idea is that users will be able to combine scents to tell a story. A reminiscent photo of a trip to Italy might be accompanied by the scent of fresh tomatoes, herbs, strong coffee, and wine.
Other attempts at communicating via smell have faded into obscurity -- like Smell-O-Vision and Odorama, two systems that tried to enhance the movie-going experience with relevant smells. Vapor Communications believes those methods failed because they were too public. Instead, they are banking on the sense of smell's association with romance, nostalgia, and ultimately, personalization. On their IndieGoGo campaign for the oPhone Duo, they explained:
Think about the way we communicate. We start with words. From these we build sentences, paragraphs, essays, etc. Each word comes and goes. One sentence leads to the next, and so on. We experience aromas this way, too, as when we eat a great meal, or move through a food market, or walk outside on a summer day. But until the oPhone, we could not have or share that experience in our electronic communications. Now we can.
Experiencing an aroma with the oPhone is something like smelling a flower. Except that you experience the aromas only if you want to. When the aroma message is finished, you no longer smell it. This is why we call it a "phone". It delivers a message to you, and when you "hang up," the "call" is over. Until you pick it up again.
For marketers, scent-based messaging could be useful for brands who depend on these types of associations. Oscar Mayer has already expressed interest in working with Scentee on a bacon-flavored alarm ("Wake up and smell the bacon."). And one of the more obvious markets, perfume makers, might be looking to find creative ways to send scent messages. In a world where marketers are challenged to be more guerrilla, more creative, more interesting, one can imagine how these technologies might play new roles.
Watch Vapor Communications' campaign video for the oPhone Duo here: