— Soon the most obsessive brunch documenters of Instagram and Facebook could out-do one another in a new, more pungent manner — the scent text message. Imagine sending a waft of eggs benedict via your smartphone.
That particular whiff may soon be possible thanks to the oPhone, a product of Vapor Communications, a company based in Paris and in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The oPhone is part of a smell text messaging system cooked up by Harvard professor David Edwards and his co-inventor and former student, Rachel Field.
This week the American Museum of Natural History played host to an oPhone, where Edwards received the first trans-Atlantic scent message — a Champagne-and-chocolate smell-o-gram sent from Paris to New York.
But how does it work? According to Wired, the oPhone DUO, "a kind of telephone for aromas," features two cylindrical gadgets that deliver bursts of scents for 10 seconds at a time. This is made possible by the oChip, a tiny cartridge that can produce hundreds of odors and that Edwards hopes will one day be installed in your smartphone. The oPhone DUO has eight chips, each containing four aromas. Vapor Communications compares them to ink cartridges — they are capable of diffusing 32 aromas in more than 300,000 different combinations over potentially hundreds of uses. And no need to worry about a bad friend sending you the smell of hot New York trash — the company is concentrating on developing food notes for now. Next up: a coffee palate.
To send your own smell mail, you need to download the free iPhone app, "oSnap," which allows users to take a photo and tag it as you would tag friends on Facebook, but with the smell of "malty cereal" or "cedar." You can then send this message (or "oNote" as they call it), via email, Facebook or Twitter, to be received at oPhone hotspots — for now, just the Manhattan, Paris and Cambridge, Mass. locations.