The iMister? Downloadable digital perfumes

Paul Raven @ 13-01-2010

COSMOS Magazine has a round-up of the current state-of-play in the nascent field of digital scent reproduction. We can do some pretty impressive stuff with digital media for our eyes and ears, and research into haptic technology seems to be ramping up in order to conquer the heretofore neglected sense of touch, but smell is a tricky proposition, because it’s a chemical process. But one Jenny Tillotson of London’s University of Arts seems to be making some advances:

Her newest gadget is the button-sized ‘eScent’. It contains bio-sensors that monitor changes in the blood pressure, respiration and skin’s electric potential. When it detects a change, it sends signals to the lab-on-a-chip devices, which then change the type or intensity of fragrance released.

Though currently crude at detecting more subtle mood changes, the idea is that eScent will eventually be able to detect stress or anxiety and then release appropriate scents to soothe the wearer. “I’m more interested in health aspects linked to aromachology, the science of fragrance, rather than just a gimmicky scent delivery system that substitutes the perfume bottle,” Tillotson says.

There is evidence to show that there is a direct link between the sense of smell and human health and well-being. “Three quarters of the emotions that we generate on a daily basis are affected by smell,” she says. “Certain odours can also relieve side effects from chemotherapy, or significantly benefit people who suffer from insomnia, muscle stiffness, bronchitis, poor concentration, indigestion, and high-blood pressure.”

Therapeutic uses are all well and good, but Tillotson’s earlier “Smart Second Skin” system strikes me as the more likely deployment to be taken up by well-moneyed early adopters, combining as it does high fashion with high technology:

Smart Second Skin combines lab-on-chip technology with miniature bio-sensors. Lab-on-chip allows the storage and handling of tiny amounts of fluids on small chips. These chips can be programmed to release specific scents at specific times.

“Just as people store different genres of music on their iPods, this method offers a new sensory system to collect and store a selection of fragrances close to the body: a modern iPod of the fragrance industry embedded in fashion” Tillotson says.

Looking further down the line, aromachology may well become another facet of immersive virtual and/or augmented reality systems, and perhaps to some user interfaces in applicable industries; it’s well known that the sense of smell is deeply linked to human memory, and so it might add an extra dimension to simulated environments… as well as offering new avenues for psychological therapies.

But it’s a double-edged sword: supermarkets and large corporate offices are already well aware that certain smells – freshly baked bread or apples, for example – can influence behaviour. What sort of tricks might they learn to pull when any smell can be synthesised at short order in direct response to physiological triggers? [image by me and the sysop]


A bearing on magnetic north growing farther away all the time

Tom James @ 17-09-2009

compassScience writer Quinn Norton tests a new sense, that of always knowing what direction North is via an ankle-attached bracelet that indicates true north using vibrations from eight internal buzzers:

The Northpaw is based on the Feelspace, a project organized by the Cognitive Psychology department of Universität Osnabrück in Germany. The principle is simple and elegant. The buzzers signal north to the wearer. The wearer gets used to it, often forgetting it’s there. They just start getting a better idea of where they are through a kind of subconscious dead reckoning.

Quinn has written about similar direction-sensing enabling technologies before.

I recall something like this in Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett. PTerry gifts his elves with “poise” – the ability always to know where they are.

[via Slashdot, from h+ Magazine][image from ★lex on flickr]


Hair you go: tracking by hair

Tom James @ 01-06-2009

hair_with_pensResearchers at the LGC Chemical Metrology Laboratory and the University of Oviedo in Spain have developed a technique to track a person’s movements between different countries using a sample of their hair:

The two most abundant sulphur isotopes in hair keratin are sulphur-32 (32S), which accounts for about 95 per cent, and sulfur-34 (34S), which makes up around 4 per cent. These proportions, however, vary according to people’s diets, and, unless they take their food with them, will therefore change when people travel.

Although this is described in terms of counter-terrorism, there is no reason why it couldn’t be used for anyone and everyone.

Police organizations, including the Metropolitan Police in London, have already shown interest in the technology.

So here is yet another way by which we can be tracked and our movements monitored.

[from Wired UK][image from Evil Erin on flickr]


Can I borrow a feeling?

Tom James @ 23-03-2009

hapticsjacketWonderful haptic jacket being developed at Phillips Electronics, from Physorg:

Paul Lemmens, a Philips senior scientist, explains that the jacket isn’t meant to make viewers feel the actual punches and blows that the actors are receiving on the screen. Rather, the intentions are more subtle.

The jacket’s purpose is to make viewers feel anxiety and other emotions through signals such as sending a shiver up the viewer’s spine, creating tension in the limbs, and creating a pulse on the chest to simulate a rapid heartbeat.

Intense.

[image from PhysOrg]


Scented laptops

Tom Marcinko @ 27-08-2008

floralApparently for real, from PC maker Asus:

Floral Blossom is pink with a flowery smell; Musky Black sports graffiti art and emits an earthy musk; Morning Dew comes in pastel green and offers that refreshing early a.m. je ne sais quoi; and Aqua Ocean gives off an aquatic aroma and comes with sky and wave imagery on the cover.

MediaBistro, unimpressed:

I can’t wait to get on a plane in a middle seat in coach surrounded by this stuff.

[Floral by Asus]


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