Smell-O-Vision, all the rage in the late 1950s and early 1960s, didn’t work out exactly as its inventors intended. Hoping to enhance films, movie owners bought into elaborate systems that were supposed to release specific scents at key points in the screening — the odor of cooking food, in a restaurant scene; the smell of a freshly cut field, when a farm was shown, etc.
Things didn’t quite work out, though; the odors were released at the wrong time, people complained of headaches and noises, and reviewers panned Smell-O-Vision films as gimmicky and trite. But the dream of bringing smell to media, and now digital, experience, is still alive and well — and Amos Porat, inventor of Scent2You, thinks he has solved the riddle.
Earlier this year (on April 1, actually), Google announced its Google Nose project, which would let you smell things via your Android phone. The consensus on the Web, though, is that Nose was an April Fool’s Day joke. But Porat isn’t joking when he talks about using computers to transmit not only words and pictures, but also scents.
“This is the real thing,” Porat told The Times of Israel on the sidelines of the Elevator World Tour in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. The tour, in which some 100 companies conducted “elevator pitches” (quick presentations of their ideas and projects) to investors and tech experts, included companies from a wide variety of industries. Not surprisingly, though, Scent2You was the only one to delve into smell technology.
There are a number of smell systems on the market, but Scent2You is different for several reasons, said Porat. “Ours is the only one that can be controlled — dispensed and diffused — via an app.” The patented system is unique, the inventor continued, as “no one else is doing anything even remotely like this. And while there are other mechanical scent systems on the market, that of Scent2You is much smaller and compact, making it perfect for use in a wide variety of devices, like electronic toys, tablets, and more.”
In addition, other systems use gases or alcohol to transmit their odors, and many people find they cannot tolerate either — or both of them — whereas that of Porat uses FDA-approved ingredients that are non-allergenic, non-alcoholic, and eco-friendly (the exact ingredients are a closely guarded trade secret).
The company’s product — called Scentasia — can be connected to PCs, Macs, and tablets via standard Wi-Fi connection, Bluetooth, USB or auxiliary port. The system uses scent cartridges, each with a distinct smell. The Scentasia can easily be controlled with commands and is accessible via social networks, websites and apps. To boot, the system can easily be customized for specific products, added Porat.
The system, however, has been vetted by Professor Noam Sobel, head of the neurobiology department of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Porat said, as he demonstrated several applications of his technology, including a Barbie-type doll that emitted a smell of perfume when a button was pressed.
“I see this as having a lot of educational applications,” enthused Porat. “For example, it could be used to teach kids, or even adults, how to cook. You could have the user add ingredients on their tablet, and if they added the right amount, the result would be the whiff of a freshly baked cake. But if the cook did it incorrectly, there’d be the smell of a burned cake.”
The inventor already has a prototype, which he’s been showing around to the delight of toy manufacturers, he said. “We were at the New York Toy Show earlier this year and we had one of the most popular booths there,” he claimed, and cited a long list of some of the world’s largest toy manufacturers that have expressed interest in working with his product — at least to some extent.
Porat, however, says that he prefers to develop the product a little more, with more prototypes for different purposes and to smooth out any rough edges. Several angels have already invested in Scent2You, and the inventor would like to raise a little more money. “I really think the time has come for something like this. We have so many apps for vision, voice, and hearing, but none for smell. I believe we have the solution for this,” gushed Porat.
For an explanation on the sense of smell (Hebrew only), by Professor Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbBN1X9xoJw