The Emergence of Smellables

Image: Flickr / The Seafarer CC BY 2.0

Image: Flickr / The Seafarer CC BY 2.0

Smell technology is one of those fields that technologists can't seem to stay away from. Since the early days of film, media entrepreneurs and big companies like have played with ways to augment media with smell, from Smell-o-Vision to AromaRama to more recent experiments with odor online.

My latest piece for Quartz, "Soon Your Text Messages Could Smell Like Curry," looks at recent forays into digitally delivered scent technology, including the oPhone, which promises to play a smell symphony through coordinated aroma release, Japan's Scentee, which makes both fragrant scent capsules that snap into your smartphone and an app that simulates the grilling of meat, to PopSecret's kitschy Pop Dongle, which squirts popcorn scent.

The phenomenon caught my eye as part of a larger sweep of new chemical-based interaction forms that include messaging via aerosolized vodka and other interesting experiments. As I write about in the Quartz piece, these new adventures into smell may be happening now as a reaction to overwhelming array of visual, audio and haptic feedback we get now from personal technology, and the subsequent interest in finding new forms of signaling that tap into our deeper emotions. 

Thanks to those who have provided positive comments on the piece, including Morgaine Gaye, who is quoted, Genevieve Bell, and Victoria Henshaw