Monday, May 13, 2013

Land of the Rising Scent

Japan is a bit of an enigma when it comes to smell. The Japanese avoid wearing strong Western-style perfume yet their long history of incense creation and appreciation speaks to an ongoing fascination with the olfactory.

The country is home to Smell Club and is a hotbed of innovation in smell technology. Japan keeps alive the dream of Smell-O-Vision: telecom giant NTT created wifi odor globes to provide a scent-track for showings of Terrence Malick’s movie The New World. NTT also produced the i-Aroma, a PC-linked device loaded with six scents. Researchers in Tokyo recently perfected a colliding airstream arrangement that give the illusion of smells emerging from specific places on a computer screen. And Nissan has developed a logoscent for its dealership showrooms and auto show events.

Still, watching items on Japanese smell technology jump off the newsfeed I sometimes experience a little déjà vu. It happened again today and I decided to investigate.

The item was about a gizmo, called the ChatPerf, that plugs into your iPhone and releases a puff of (a single) scent on software command. The link was to a YouTube of a young lady demonstrating the device. The video was uploaded today, but a little googling shows that the device has been kicking since last fall—an eternity in tech dog-years. It debuted in October, followed a few days later by a post on Slashgear, and a day later Elena Vosnaki at PerfumeShrine wrote about it. [I got your déjà vu right here.—Ed.]

The ChatPerf device has a website (still dated 2012) which pictures a different, presumably earlier version of the plug-in. The inventors seem not to know what to do with their new baby—the website implores people to suggest applications.

The questions linger: Is it vaporware? Why keep pushing it? Who is behind it? Can I get one? Does it synch with Fart Piano?

UPDATE May 14, 2013

ChatPerf, the company—or perhaps just some guy in a bathrobe on the 18th floor of the Akasaka East Tower in Tokyo’s Minato-ku precinct—behind the smelly iPhone plug-in gets more free publicity as ExtremeTech and Mashable treat the story as new.

I tweeted my own suggestions for smell-iPhone apps:

Can you change me now? Instant full diaper alert app from Pampers.
Instagas: It’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your bean burrito with friends and family.
Belch:  Eat, drink and share the post-ingestive effects with the Belch community of restaurant raters.

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