I’ve often joked in meetings about how some ideas are a bit ‘pie in the sky’. An example that I’ve jokingly referenced in such conversations (as a benchmark of the particularly untenable) would be ‘Smell-o-Vision’. The mainstream technology we’ve got got readily available to us today encompasses all other senses, apart from smell… but perhaps, not for long.
For the past ten years British designer Amy Radcliffe has been developing an analogue odour camera she called The Madeleine. Utilising a technology developed in the 80s called Headspace Capture, the camera captures, then at a chemical level, reacts with molecules of odor components, in a not dissimilar way to the way silver halides react when exposed to photons in a standard analogue cameras film.
A further parallel to film photography, is that once you’ve captured a smell, you’ll send the snapshot off, to a lab. It’s then processed, synthesised into a smell and sent back to you and whilst The Madeleine is still a prototype and “not perfect”, the concept itself could be a winner.
Behavioral economists will tell you that by triggering an emotive response it is possible to manipulate an outcome. Olfactory psychologists will tell you that smell, can trigger the most powerful of emotive responses. Entrepreneurs will tell you that putting these together could equate to big business.
Such entrepreneurs have indeed tried coupling these concepts together in the past. Smell-o-Vision believe it or not was real, as was it’s rival AromaRama. These companies slogged it out in movie theatres of New York in the late 50s in the hope of re invigorating the waning public interest in cinema. Both fell by the way side, largely due to technical barriers, largely due to the naffness of the films they attempted to enhance.
That was then and this is now. The digital revolution is upon us. A slight ‘leap of faith’ is required for this next bit, but imagine if Amy’s technology could be digitized and mass produced. As well as the potential for the ‘one to many’ media – such as film and television, imagine what it could do to social technologies. Instagram launches Smellstragram. Facebook goes Nosebook. Google+ rolls out Bugle+
I’m in danger of becoming a bit silly now, so I’ll sign off with Amy’s video about her marvelous smell cam. Enjoy. Leave us a smell-o-ment (smell comment), if you’re reading this in the future.