Share touch, smell and taste via the internet

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The smell of freshly cut lavender – like so many fragrances, it has the power to conjure up a whole set of memories and feelings – imagine being able to share that with someone on the other side of the earth.

Sharing smell, but also touch, and even taste – that’s the vision of a London university professor who has developed a range of devices he hopes will transcend the current limitations of online communication.

Today, our interaction with a smartphone or a computer is essentially audio-visual. Adrian David Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London, wants to involve all of our senses.

“Imagine you’re looking at your desktop, or your iPhone or laptop – everything is behind the glass, behind a window, you’re either touching glass or looking through glass. But in the real world, we can open up the glass, open the window and we can touch, we can taste, we can smell. So, what we need to do is we need to bring computers – the way we interact with computers – like we do in the physical world, with all of our five senses,” says Professor Cheok.

To communicate smells via the internet, Cheok and his team have created the “Scentee” device, which connects to an app on your smartphone. An aroma is released when you receive a text message or when the phone clock alarm goes off.

“Scentee is a small device than you can attach into your mobile phone, into the audio jack. And what happens is that it allows you to send a smell message through your mobile phone. So, for example, it could be someone’s birthday and you can send them the smell of strawberry,” explains Professor Cheok.

Fragrances include florals like lavender and rose, fruit like strawberries or invigorating aromas like coffee.

One device plus 3 aroma cartridges will set you back some US$70 or around 60 euros. Each replaceable cartridge contains around 100 sprays. Its developers say the technology can also be used in tandem with a smart phone alarm clock to fill a room with an aroma and influence a person’s mood.

But Cheok wants to go further, beyond smell, and offer users a chance to share touch via the internet. So, together with a team of researchers in Japan, he has developed what’s been dubbed the “world’s first tele-hug ring”.

“With this device here – it’s called RingU and you can put it on your finger – it connects to your smartphone so you can connect to anyone in the world through the internet. So I can be in London and my friend can be in Tokyo, and I can squeeze my finger and then they’ll get a squeeze on their finger through the internet. It’s a way of touch communication with small mobile devices,” says Professor Cheok.

When one user “hugs” the ring, the touch sense is digitally transmitted to the recipient’s ring which then replicates the sensation. The ring communicates with your smartphone using Bluetooth technology. It can even display the date, time and location so-called “hugs” were sent and received.

Moving on to taste now, and Cheok’s most surprising invention: the “Electronic Taste Machine”. Wedged between two metal sensors, your tongue is tricked into experiencing various tastes, ranging from sour to bitter, salt or sweet, depending on the frequency of the electrical current passing through the electrodes.

And like with the other devices, these electrical signals can travel through the Internet.

“We’ve researched and found certain frequencies and amplitude of electrical current can generate artificial taste,” explains Professor Cheok. “So, basically what happens is you put these two silver electrodes in your mouth, you put your tongue in between and then it stimulates electrically your tongue and you get a virtual taste perception in your brain.”

Cheok is the founder of Singapore’s “Mixed Reality Lab”.

In mixed reality, the real and virtual worlds will eventually merge as one, to produce new environments where physical and digital objects will co-exist and interact in real time.

Copyright © 2015 euronews

Smarter phones that smell, taste and feel great that smell, taste and feel great

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Imagine an Apple iPhone that smells like an apple or a Blackberry that taste sweet or a Windows Touch-phone that squeezes you in mid-conversation. Scientists in London have made more progress in the now-common smartphone to make the audio-visual communication transcend tool what engineers call “the glass barrier” and create an experience that is more 4-D.

Professor Adrian David Cheok of the University of London said of his technology, “In the real world, we can open up the glass, open the window. We can touch, we can taste, we can smell in the real world.”

How do inanimate smartphones deliver the sensation of senses?

First you will have to open your mouth and say, “Ah!” The human tongue’s surface has molecules, also known as tastebuds, that through chemical ionization send the brain electrical signals of a specific amplitude depending on which type of taste: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Scientist have found a way to send these signals — minus the calories — to savor. This process was explained by Professor Cheok.


“You put these two silver electrodes in your mouth, you put your tongue in between and then it stimulates electrically your tongue and you get a virtual taste perception in your brain.” So far, scientists have reproduced sour, salty, sweet and bitter tastes, it will take further exploration to make all the taste we are accustomed to eat like Bacon.

At the push of a button you are now able to deliver an array of scents to smell. The device and app “Scentee” is an attachment to plug into your smart phone that holds a cartridge of 100 different smells, from fresh fruits, lavender or jasmine, to fresh ground coffee, that can be sprayed when prompted by the other side of the conversation. Professor Cheok relayed, “Basically what happens, we have an app, it connects to the Internet and then this will release scent from your mobile phone.” Think of the added benefit of sending your friend a hint of lemon scent when they say they are having a bad day or the scent of cookies because you know they are not hungry when you are.

Have you even been in a conversation and the other person for a moment stops paying attention or loses focus? Well, as long as you put a ring on them that is connected wirelessly to your smartphone, you can gently squeeze their finger to regain their attention or focus in mid-conversation. “I can be in London and my friend can be in Tokyo, and I can squeeze my finger and then they’ll get a squeeze on their finger through the Internet. It’s a way of touch communication with small mobile devices,” said Professor Cheok.

With the development of smart technology, from phones to homes, the barriers of pan-sensual communication will soon be memories of the past. Professor Cheok hopes the devices developed will soon be added to smartphone and homes to further transcend the current limitations of long distance communication.

By Mark A.G. Cox

Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

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Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures. For now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch.

Many people around the world enjoy one of the greatest marvels of modern technology every day — instant audio-visual communication.

But professor Adrian David Cheok, from City University in London, said he wants to transcend what he calls the ‘glass barrier’.

“In the real world, we can open up the glass, open the window. We can touch, we can taste, we can smell in the real world,” said Cheok.

Mobile taste

Let’s start with the sense of taste. Cheok said different tastes are triggered by molecules that cause chemical ionization on the surface of the tongue, sending the brain electrical signals of a specific amplitude and frequency that are possible to reproduce with two electrodes.

“You put these two silver electrodes in your mouth, you put your tongue in between and then it stimulates electrically your tongue and you get a virtual taste perception in your brain,” he said.

So far, scientists have reproduced sour, salty, sweet and bitter tastes.

Another device, called ‘Scentee,’ plugs into a smartphone, and can spray tiny clouds of selected fragrances, such as lavender or jasmine, smells of fruits or even coffee, when prompted by the other side of the conversation.

“Basically what happens, we have an app, it connects to the Internet and then this will release scent from your mobile phone,” said Cheok.

Long-distance smell, touch

Scentee holds a cartridge with about 100 different smells, but has to be replaced once it’s been used up.

The sense of touch comes through a ring-like device. Connected wirelessly to the smartphone, it transmits a gentle squeeze when the other person does the same during a conversation.

“I can be in London and my friend can be in Tokyo, and I can squeeze my finger and then they’ll get a squeeze on their finger through the Internet. It’s a way of touch communication with small mobile devices,” said Cheok.

Cheok said he hopes devices such as these will someday be added to smartphones and even smart houses, transcending the current limitations of long-distance communication.

Wake up and smell the message

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Sunday, January 18, 2015, 00:01


The sense of smell is the next frontier for smartphones.


One of technology’s modern truisms is that if you can imagine it, there’s an app for it. Do you want to book a table for dinner, spy on your neighbour, fool your colleagues into thinking that you’re busy working when in fact you’re taking a nap (iNap@Work), check if a watermelon is actually ripe by analysing the sound it makes (Melon Meter), and pop a virtual pimple? Yes, there’s an app for all that and more.

It is this sheer availability of apps that has transformed phones from a device for calling and sending messages into a tool that can help you do anything you want, and then some more.

There’s just one sense which no app has managed to captureyet: smell.

As the humblest of senses, smell is frequently underrated. And yet, without smell, food would taste different because while taste can distinguish between sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury, it is the interaction between taste and smell which cooks up the real flavour of food. Without smell, you wouldn’t enjoy the dark pleasure of a freshly brewed early morning coffee. And no wardrobe is complete without a quick dash of perfume behind the ears.

Smell is the next frontier for smartphones. And we’re getting there. In 2013, chef Ferran Adria hosted a webcast in which he invited academics and developers to submit proposals to help him create an online gastronomic resource: Bullipedia. One of the shortlisted proposals, put together by Professor Adrian Cheok, founder and director of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab, has now been commercially developed by Japanese firm ChatPerf into Scentee.

Working in conjunction with a dedicated app, Scentee is a module that can be slotted into a smartphone’s headphone jack. The module then emits scentson command.

It’s still early days for Scentee. However, it carries huge potential, especially for marketing and gaming purposes. In the US, bacon company Oscar Meyer has come up with an alarm clock which, when attached to your smartphone, wakes you up with the smell of sizzling bacon. How’s that for a good morning? And even though Scentee might have failed to win favour with Ferran Adria, another Michelin-starred restaurant, Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain, is using the app as a pre-dinner treat for customers.

The Scentee code has also been released, which means that developers can write their own scent-based apps. The Parisian design centre Le Laboratoire is also developing its own smell device: the oPhone. The device, which will be available this spring, is a phone that emits various smells to music and at the time of its release, will be able to emit 300,000 unique smells. This means that, for instance, instead of traditional messages, friends with oPhones can send each other smells: just imagine waking up your wife with the smell of coffee or sending a rose-scented message to a date.

Smell-centred communication has other potential applications. Digital olfaction can fuel healthcare applications: researchers are studying the possibility of using an e-nose to deliver early diagnosis of cancer through chemicals in the blood. Smelling devices can also be used as a cognitive aid for Alzheimer’s sufferers and to detect chemical offgassing from hidden weapons.

Before you rush off to compose a smell to send to your friend, remember that smell-centred communication is still in its early stages. But give it a couple of years and sending and receiving smells could be as normal as transmitting sight and sound.

Watch BBC Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2014: Sparks Will Fly – How to Hack your Home

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Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2014: Sparks Will Fly – How to Hack your Home
Episode 2 of 3 – Making Contact


Professor Danielle George takes three great British inventions – the light bulb, the telephone and the motor – and shows you how to hack, adapt and transform them to do extraordinary things. This is tinkering for the 21st century.

Inspired by Alexander Graham Bell, Danielle attempts to beam a special guest into the theatre via hologram using the technology found in a mobile phone. Along the way, Danielle shows the next generation how to hack, adapt and transform the electronics found in the home to have fun and make a difference to the world.

This year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures have been inspired by the great inventors and the thousands of people playing with technology at their kitchen tables or tinkering in their garden sheds. When Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated the first telephone in 1876, he could never have dreamed that in 2014 we’d all be carrying wire-free phones in our pockets and be able to video chat in crystal clear HD across the world.

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In this lecture, Danielle explains how these technologies work and shows how they can be adapted to help keep you connected to the people around you. She shows how to control paintball guns with a webcam and turn your smartphone into a microscope, whilst also investigating a device that allows you to feel invisible objects in mid-air.

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by MICHELLE MOONS 20 Dec 2014

Virtual scent seekers in pursuit of that scent-selfie, fragrant floral photo, or a scent to accompany that Instagram food shot may be in luck. Debate continues, however, over whether scent technology will be the next leading tech breakthrough in 2015.


Technology already exists to send scent digital smells with Japanese application and cell phone attachment Scentee, reports Nesta. Though not yet mainstream, “Scentee uses alcohol-based aroma cartridges which come in specific flavours and are housed inside a small plastic device that attaches to the headphone input of a smartphone.”

New research being developed by Scentee technology creator Adrian Cheok, a professor at City University London, would eliminate the need for those scent cartridges but would employ the possibly undesirable option of a mouthguard device that would send magnetic signals reportedly stimulating the olfactory bulb.

First conceived fifty years back and long considered a stinker, Nesta forecasts scent transmission as one of its top 10 predictions for 2015.

Research has not been waylaid over scent technology naysayers. At the University of California San Diego, researchers released results in 2011 of a two-year experiment regarding adding scents to a television or cell phone experience. Questions remained at the time that continue today as to the widespread appeal of such technology to consumers.

Scent technology-pursuing companies continue in their quest for success. Nesta also brings up oPhone, “a pipe-shaped device made for receiving scent messages (called oNotes) triggered by an iPhone app called oSnap.”

Improvement of scent tech mechanics is also accompanied by the effects of implementing the technology. Nesta reports Professor Cheok and a City University team of researchers have been “studying the effect of synthetic smells, sent via the Internet, on emotions.”

While past opinion has been set against scent tech, researchers continue to put effort into both the mechanics of transmission and the effectiveness-evidence to sell the worth of the product.

Smellovision and internet parties: 2015 predictions

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by Geoff Mulgan 19 December 2014 12:13am
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AS 2014 draws to a close, we’re all starting to think about what 2015 will bring. Will the economy soar or slump? Will we have an inconclusive general election? Will oil prices sag even further downwards?

At Nesta, each year we try to pinpoint the biggest social and technological trends that could shape our lives over the coming year. We’ve been doing it since 2011, and our forecasts tend to hit the mark. In 2012, we accurately predicted the take-off of Raspberry Pi (a credit card-sized computer), 3D printing and crowdfunding. Last year, we predicted everything from the rise of virtual reality head-set Oculus Rift to the battle over personal data. The world is gloriously unpredictable, of course, but we hope these projections help make sense of the deeper currents of change lying behind the headlines.

This year, we’re focusing on 10 big areas of change. Some affect life and death, like the arrival of the first apps that can locate members of the public with first aid skills, and get them to the scene of an emergency ahead of ambulances. For people suffering a heart attack, the minutes gained could make all the difference.

Other predictions concern fun. A good example is the arrival of smellovision. In 2015, technology will make it possible to transmit scents through your smartphone. This year, scientists in the UK, US and Japan unveiled devices which can electronically simulate smells, providing a direct route to the limbic system of the brain, the part responsible for memory and provoking emotion. The leading device in the area is a smartphone attachment called Scentee, which can release smells like a puff of coffee to wake you up in the morning.

A third group of predictions will make many feel queasy. We expect to see the arrival of Minority Report-style billboards, broadcasting tailored advertising based on data from your GPS-enabled phone. Advertisers are always looking for novel ways to influence, and with a global spend of more than $500bn, the industry is keen to get results. We’ll see new billboard technology debut in major cities by the end of the year, but long-term success will depend on consumers’ continued willingness to give away personal data, as well as on advertisers’ ability to keep content respectful and relevant.

Politics is another area where surprising changes may be imminent. We know there will be an election in May, and newer parties like Ukip are likely to do well. We don’t forecast the result, but we do predict that the UK will soon see the arrival of new parties, very different to the old ones, which use the internet to shape policy and involve members. Many have sprung up across the world. Podemos in Spain now leads opinion polls, while Five Star in Italy has mass support. We think the UK will follow suit, with new parties using social media to recruit and campaign.

A final area of prediction concerns waste. This Christmas, we’ll all eat (and probably throw away) a lot of food. We predict long overdue progress in tackling the extraordinary amount of wasted food: according to some estimates, around 15m tonnes are discarded each year in the UK. Part of the answer may come from the “gleaning” networks springing up, which divert food from unnecessarily going into bins and put it into people’s mouths instead.

Some of these changes are being driven by big companies and governments. But a lot of the most interesting ones – like this one – are being driven by creative people, often far from the pinnacles of power, responding to the world around them.

Geoff Mulgan is chief executive of Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation. You can read Nesta’s ten predictions for 2015 at

Scent of success: Smartphone smellovision tipped for 2015 glory

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Editor : Michael BROWN, 19 December 2014 Friday – 14:49

The practice of digitally transmitting the scent of perfume, coffee or even nuovelle cuisine via SMS or Instagram will take off next year, Nesta predicted, as part of its annual list of trends it thinks will shape our lives over the coming 12 months.


Smartphones will be sending and receiving scented messages by the end of next year, experts say.
The concept is one of ten emerging technologies forecast by innovation charity Nesta to make it big 2015, with others including life-saving apps and food waste feeding millions of people.
It comes six months after scientists managed to send the smell of champagne and macarons from Paris to New York with an iPhone app using a device called the oPhone Duo.

The system consists of an oSnap app which allows users to create an oNote with a smell created out of a palette of 32 available scents that can be combined in 300,000 possible combinations.
The oNote can then be sent to the oPhone hardware – a device which is able to recreate the smell.

Other technology in this field is the Scentee device, which can release a favourite aroma at the same time as a phone clock alarm or when an individual receives a text message.
It also claims to be able to change the taste of food with its mini air-freshener-like alcohol-based aroma cartridges. A user can select to emit a puff of scent at will using the small plastic device.
City University computing professor Adrian Cheok developed the technology behind Scentee and is now working on a device that will send a magnetic signal to a mouthguard in the back of the throat.

‘The olfactory overload of a Sunday afternoon visit to your local flower market can be texted to a friend a thousand miles away. In 2015, I predict that the ability to digitally transmit smells will hit the mainstream.’
It has been more than half a century since the concept of ‘Smell-O-Vision’ was introduced to cinema audiences, making its first widespread appearance in the 1960 film Scent Of Mystery.

The film opened in three specially-equipped theatres in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – with the idea being that certain odours would be timed to specific points in the narrative.

But the mechanism did not work properly and audience members complained of a hissing noise accompanying the scents – as well as a delay between the actions and their corresponding smells.

Mr McNorton added: ‘While we’ve turned our noses up at past attempts, I believe 2015 is the year “smell-o-vision” will finally lose its stink.’
Another prediction is of a huge innovation in first aid that will see ambulance trusts incorporate smartphone technology locating local trained first aiders, who can respond instead of paramedics.

It is also claimed that in 2015 enough fruit and vegetables will be diverted from food waste to feed millions of people, through ‘gleaning’ harvest food that would be otherwise left to rot in farms.

Of Nesta’s ten 2014 predictions, one of the most interesting is that there would be an ‘introduction of services that help us improve our lives based on the data that we give away every day’.


Wake Up and Smell the Coffee with Your Smartphone

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By  December 19, 2014 5:02 pm

The rise of the smartphone has been universal and innovators now reckon we’ll soon not only be able to surf the net, watch videos and share face time via our phones – we’ll also be able to share smells.

That’s according to innovation charity Nesta, which says that successful experiments to send scents via mobile phone will go mainstream in the New Year.

During the summer, macaroon and champagne smells were sent via an iPhone in Paris to one in New York using the oPhone Duo device. Users were able to mix their own scents from a choice of 32 different smells available via the oSnap app, then send it as an oNote. The oPhone hardware then recreates the scent so the recipient can really wake up and smell the coffee.

This is just one of a number of developments in the arena of sending smells by phone. Scentee is another, which is able to release a scent into the air when a text message arrives or when a phone alarm clock goes off. It uses tiny scent cartridges that the user can set to be triggered at certain times.

Pop Dongle is another company making scented plugs-ins for mobile users. Have a look at it in action:

Josh Norton from Nesta told the Daily Mail: “Imagine the next selfie you see posted is accompanied by the scent of perfume. The Instagram photo of your gourmet steak dinner comes with a whiff of buttery mashed potatoes.”

He reckons this will be a major trend in 2015, taking sharing to a new level.

But it’s not the first time that science has promised to give us scents to accompany our audio and visual experiences. In the 1960s, Smell-O-Vision was introduced at cinemas in the US to release appropriate odours at certain points in a film. It wasn’t a hit.

Mr McNorton said: “While we’ve turned our noses up at past attempts, I believe 2015 is the year “smell-o-vision” will finally lose its stink.”

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