People stopping to smell the roses can now take that sweet fragrance home with them or even send it to a friend far away — thanks to a new Japanese gadget that records and replicates odors.
The device, developed by scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology, analyzes smells with 15 sensors, records their composition digitally and reproduces them by mixing 96 chemicals and vaporizing the result.
Creator Takamichi Nakamoto said the technology will have applications in food and fragrance industries, where companies are always on the lookout for ways to re-create smells.
It could also bring a new sensuality to the digital world, allowing smells to be recorded in one place — by sensors in a mobile phone, for instance — and transmitted to appreciative noses halfway around the world.
And it could also let online shoppers check out perfumes or flowers before they buy.
“The sensitivity of the human nose is very good,” Nakamoto said. “But to some extent, we can replicate the performance (with the device).”
Nakamoto says his machine, which has been under development since 1999, is the most advanced of its kind, although rival Keio University, also in Tokyo, is doing similar research.
But it may be a while before people can send a digital bouquet for Mother’s Day instead of the real thing. The fragrance recorder, measuring about 1 meter by 70 cm, isn’t very portable.
Still, it represents a breakthrough and follows on the heels of a “smellovision” project that recently brought odors to movies in Japan.
That effort was undertaken by NTT Communications Corp. and emitted smells from under seats in two movie theaters to accompany parts of the film “The New World,” a Hollywood adventure film.
Nakamoto’s smell recorder has successfully re-created a range of fruit smells, including oranges, apples, bananas and lemons, but can be reprogrammed to produce almost any odor — from old fish to gasoline, he said.
Making the 15 sensor chips, which pick up aromas and convert them to a digital formula, was the hardest part, Nakamoto added.
The bulky unit also had problems as the 96 odor-forming chemicals are in separate glass bottles. A more compact version, which includes only the sensors, can record smells but must be hooked up to the blender to reproduce them.
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