After satisfying the senses of sight and sound through video streams and music downloads, NTT Communications aims to tap into the sense of smell with a new system that allows users to send fragrances from their cell phones.
A trial of the service will take place later this month during which users will be able to select and send certain fragrance recipes to an in-home unit that is responsible for concocting and releasing the various fragrances. Each holds 16 cartridges of base fragrances or essences that are mixed to produce the various scents in a similar way that a printer mixes inks to produce other colors.
Transforming the mood of room with a new scent is quite easy with this technology.
The first step is to choose a scent from the multitude of fragrance recipes available through an I-mode site on a cell phone. Once chosen the instructions on how to make the scent are then transmitted to the fragrance device through infrared from the phone, and from there the scent is quickly mixed and emitted.
If distance is an issue, the other option is to send the instructions to the device via an email message. The message is intercepted by a home gateway unit that is latched to the home’s broadband connection and sends the instructions to the fragrance device at home. Using this method users can set the time and date of fragrance emission, so one can come home to the relaxing scent of lavender, for example.
There's even room for creating customised scents, which can be shared with other users through the fragrance "playlist" on the website.
The technology is not only limited to creating a pleasant-smelling workplace or home. NTT also sees it as a way to enhance multimedia content. For example, instead of just sending an image of a bouquet of roses to a friend, one can boost the experience by sending the fragrance as well.
NTT hopes the fragrance emitter will cost about ¥20,000 (NZ$243) when eventually launched commercially. Cartridge refills should cost about ¥1,600 it says.
NTT Communications believes that fragrance is the next important medium for telecommunications, as more value is placed on high sensory information. Through a company sponsored internet survey, NTT found that 56% of people polled use aromatherapy or believe that it has positive benefits.
"Aromatherapy can reduce stress and help you relax, and to be able to control smell implies one has the power to manipulate feelings as well," says Akira Sakaino, from NTT's net business division.
NTT has been developing this technology, which it calls "kaori tsushin," since 2004, and has collaborated with various outfits to test the service.
Applications have ranged from fragrance rooms in hotels in Tokyo and Osaka to aroma advertising through digital signage, where fragrances were made to match audio-visual content, located in pubs, parking lots and railway stations around Tokyo.
The fragrance communication mobile service test will take place from April 10 to 20 and involves 20 monitors who are tasked to give feedback on the service.