Universities Week 2014: Text a hug or send a smell

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By Ellie Buchdahl9 June 2014

Nothing says ‘welcome home’ like the warm smell of freshly baked bread, does it? And nothing says ‘I love you’ better than a big, tight squeeze from a friend.

So wouldn’t it be great to be able to send hugs and scented wishes across the world as easily as a phone call, a text message or an email?

Thanks to work involving students at City University in London, now you can.

Visitors to the Multi-Sensory Internet stand at the Natural History Museum during Universities Week will be able to try on a ring that gives them a ‘remote hug’, get a shot of flavour from a ‘digital lollipop’, or sniff a ‘Scentee’ device – a phone that transmits smells including strawberry, lavender and coffee.

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Want a hug? Professor Adrian David Cheok demonstrates the RingU device that sends virtual cuddles

Academic, apprentice and entrepreneur

Jordan Tewell, from Ohio in the USA, is on a team of international and UK students working with entrepreneur Adrian David Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University, to create these ‘sense-sending’ devices.

Jordan’s PhD in Computer Science sounds more like a full-blown apprenticeship in entrepreneurism and networking than a programming project.

‘My day-to-day work really depends on Adrian’s schedule,’ Jordan says.

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‘Usually we’ll run some tests, experiments or demonstrations in the lab, but we have regular outings to events at The Hangout, which is a space set up between the university and local entrepreneurs from London’s Tech City to let students learn entrepreneurship skills and give them a chance to attract investment in their ideas.

‘I also go along with Adrian to companies to make professional pitches for products he’s marketing.

‘We recently took the Scentee to a major multinational consumer products company, and they’re going to use it in a promotional campaign for antiperspirant.’

Professor Cheok and his gadgets are well known in the advertising world.

He has worked with the Michelin-starred restaurant Mugaritz in Spain to develop a mobile app that recreates some of chef Andoni Luis Aduriz’s top dishes. He also worked with a Japanese company to produce a campaign in the USA with meat manufacturer Oscar Mayer, developing a mobile phone ‘alarm clock’ that wakes people with the smell and sound of bacon cooking via the Scentee.

But the input of the PhD students at City is invaluable to his work.

‘My background was computer science,’ says Jordan. ‘Adrian is a real gadget guru, but I’ve brought in my skill set in programming.’

International experience

‘One of the best things about doing this project is working with an interdisciplinary team,’ Jordan adds.

‘There are businessmen, designers in other technical areas, programmers – and it’s incredibly international, too, which was another reason why I wanted to come to the UK.’

One of Jordan’s jobs is to convert the engineer’s perspective of technical drawings and product requirements into simpler picture guides.

These are used by designers based in Japan, and Jordan’s task involves negotiating a language barrier.

‘It’s one of the realities of the industry, and I’m now used to boiling down every nook and cranny of what I do into a format that someone who doesn’t speak excellent English can understand,’ he says. ‘It’s prepared me for anything down the road.’

So how do these virtual tastes actually work?

It’s all down to chemicals and currents, apparently.

The Scentee is loaded with reservoirs of alcohol-based solutions that mimic ‘coffee’ or ‘roses’, for example, but that linger longer than the ‘real’ smells would.

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Sweet science: A taste radio with silver electrodes that go into the mouth to stimulate certain taste sensations on the tongue

Other devices, such as a taste radio, have an apparatus that can be placed in the mouth to stimulate sweet or salt-detecting neurons on the tongue using harmless bursts of electricity.

The research that underpins these devices could have practical medical applications as well as commercial ones, such as ‘recreating’ taste for people with mouth or tongue disorders, or inducing sweet tastes for people with diabetes.

With studies showing that taste and memory are intrinsically linked, there is also potential for memory-aiding devices that go beyond the verbal and visual – to prompt people with Alzheimer’s disease to take medication, for example.

‘This is creating a whole language of taste that can be used in a scientific way, and it’s opening up a completely new area of molecular gastronomy,’ Jordan says. ‘We could even create tastes that you wouldn’t experience in the real world.

‘We are working on cutting-edge stuff here, and in a couple of years we could be building businesses out of it,’ Jordan adds.

‘This is a great opportunity – and a real chance to network and show the world what we’ve created.’

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Gastronomy guinea pig: Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal puts one of the devices through its paces

http://www.educationuk.org/global/articles/city-university-students-create-gadgets-to-text-hugs-and-send-smells/

Sending smells by text and other things you didn’t know about UK research

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titlepiece

University researchers tell us about their groundbreaking research – and why they want the public to know about it

Over 250 events took place in UK universities last week to celebrate Universities Week – a five-day festivity where researchers leave the labs to share their work with the public. Now in its fourth year, the main event – and the biggest yet – took place at the Natural History Museum.

• As we launch our new hub on the Impact of Research, I speak to some of the researchers involved about why the public should be interested in their work.

•The vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey and head of Universities UK outline the challenges faced by researchers and their focus for the future.

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City University staff modelling the Scentee app, ‘digital lollypop’…and some lemons. Photograph: City University

 

Adrian David Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University, London, featuring the phone that wakes you up to the smell of bacon

Tell me about your research
“We are trying to bring all the five senses to the internet, so we can transmit and communicate in a multisensory way.”

OK, so how does it work?
“We have a device called Scentee which you attach to your mobile phone. What it does is emit a puff of scent, such as bacon, coffee or lavender, (using chemical cartridges) when you send someone a text message. We have similar devices to produce taste using only electrical current. So if you’re cooking, you can send the taste and smell of your cooking to all of your Facebook friends. We are also looking at touch technology, making devices like RingU, where you connect your ring to the internet via your mobile phone. You can be thinking of your friend, who might be anywhere in the world, and squeeze your ring and they will then get a squeeze on their finger.”

Why should the public be interested in your research?
“Currently the internet is very much about audio and visual communication. But the sense of touch, taste and smell are very important in our physical communication – these senses are connected to the limbic system of the brain which is responsible for emotion and memory. So when you’re chatting online or Skyping, you actually lose a lot of the human emotion. We want to bring these senses to the internet so in the future you will be able to have a sense of presence.”

What are the challenges you face?
“There’s a saying that in the 21st century the most valuable research is time, because now with the internet we basically have infinite information. Yes, time and funding are very important, but you need to have some creativity. You need to have students who are willing to not do incremental work, but what I call quantum step work. In the atom the electrons will fly around in the one band, but that is incremental work. What you need to do is jump to the next quantum gap. We need to have young people who will become scientists and engineers, but it’s really great during education if they are exposed to the creative arts and other fields so they can understand creativity and design.

“We have to remove the barrier between academia and the public, and if you don’t, it is the universities that are going to suffer, because knowledge is going to become more and more free – and you are seeing this now with things like Ted talks. Universities and researchers have to keep up with the internet age and that’s very important to survive in the 21st century.”

What excites you about research?
“I want to invent completely new technology and push the barrier of knowledge. People might think it is really wacky or crazy at the time, but then when you can show them that it really works, you can get a lot of very positive feedback. The most important thing to do is to be totally original.”

http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/jun/16/why-public-should-care-about-uk-research

City’s Circus for the Senses wows audiences at Natural History Museum

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Research showcased as part of Universities Week

13 June 2014

How do you share the taste of your favourite meal or send a scent over the internet? Visitors to the Natural History Museum this week had the chance to find out at City’s Circus for the Senses.big_thumbnail

Held as part of Universities Week, City’s stand showcased the ground-breaking work of Adrian Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing, accompanied by his PhD students Marius Braun and Jordan Tewell.

More than 850 people visited the stand to get a feel and taste of the brave new world of the multi-sensory internet. It featured the Scentee device which connects to a smartphone and emits the smell of your favourite scent – be that a virtual bouquet of flowers or the smell of bacon to wake you up in the morning. Also on display were the first ever telehug ring and a digitally actuated lollipop to stimulate the taste buds with salty, sweet and sour flavours.

big_thumbnail (1)Professor Cheok, from City’s School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering, is the founder and director of the Mixed Reality Lab. His research covers human-computer interfaces, wearable computers and ubiquitous computing.

Speaking about the exhibition Professor Cheok said: “It was great to have so many people young and old, from all walks of life, try our demonstrations, and ask detailed questions. Our research is all about human-computer interaction, so being able to hear visitors’ feedback about our inventions was brilliant. People were so interested they even enquired how can they study at City University London!”

See Adrian explain his demonstrations to the media.

This year’s Universities Week saw the Natural History Museum host some of the most cutting-edge research from the UK’s universities, highlighting how university research is helping to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

City was also recognised for its work in public engagement. Researchers from the School of Health Scienceswon the Health and Wellbeing award in the national Engage Competition, run by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).

Recognised for successfully developing community engagement and collaborative working in mental health nursing research, SUGAR (Service User and Carer Group Advising on Research) – which is facilitated by Professor Alan Simpson from the School of Health Sciences – was the winning project from over 230 entries.

http://www.city.ac.uk/news/2014/jun/citys-circus-for-the-senses-wows-audiences-at-natural-history-museum

Professor Adrian David Cheok elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts

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RSA

Professor of Pervasive Computing, Professor Adrian Cheok, is honoured at becoming a new Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA)

Professor Adrian David Cheok, chair Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London, has been elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

Royal-Society1The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is an enlightenment organisation which is committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship, it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world. Based in London and founded in 1754, the RSA was granted a Royal Charter in 1847 and the right to use the term Royal in its name by King Edward VII in 1908.

The RSA Fellowship is a network of people from a wide range of backgrounds, united by a desire to build a better society. There are over 27,000 Fellows in more than 80 countries, working together for the benefit of their communities. The RSA supports Fellows in developing local networks and initiatives and through RSA Catalyst programme it provides money and expertise to Fellow-led ideas that aim to have a positive social impact. Fellows elected to the Fellowship must have demonstrated significant achievement to the arts, manufactures and commerce. They come from various backgrounds and are social leaders in their respective areas.

Through his Mixed Reality Lab, (http://mixedrealitylab.org/) Professor Cheok explores mixed reality, human-computer interfaces, wearable computers and ubiquitous computing, fuzzy systems, embedded systems and power electronics. Professor Cheok and his colleagues are actively researching in the field of ’empathetic communication’, by digitally conveying smell and touch.

Reacting to news of his Fellowship, Professor Cheok said:

“Being elected a Fellow of the RSA is without doubt an honour for both myself and City. It is even more of an honour to join a highly respected society whose past members and present members include Charles Dickens, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, William Hogarth, John Diefenbaker, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee and is committed to finding innovative and practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Further to this, my election to the RSA falls in line with the goals of City in making a real impact on business and the professions.”

For further information on the RSA please visit http://www.thersa.org

Interview at Monocle 24 Radio Station – The Entrepreneurs

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http://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-entrepreneurs/

This episode: We visit a family farm in northern Greece, talk future tech with Adrian David Cheok of the Mixed Reality Lab, explore the US craft-beer movement with Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Brewery, discuss branding with Jeanette Pritchard, look at watchmaking in Australia, and try to predict the future of Burberry with the team at Winkreative.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/160031913″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Sending smells by text and other things you didn’t know about UK research

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titlepiece

Article in the Guardian Newspaper

University researchers tell us about their groundbreaking research – and why they want the public to know about it
    • Over 250 events took place in UK universities last week to celebrate Universities Week – a five-day festivity where researchers leave the labs to share their work with the public. Now in its fourth year, the main event – and the biggest yet – took place at the Natural History Museum.

The researchers

Scentee app

City University staff modelling the Scentee app, ‘digital lollypop’…and some lemons. Photograph: City University

Adrian David Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University, London, featuring the phone that wakes you up to the smell of bacon

Tell me about your research
“We are trying to bring all the five senses to the internet, so we can transmit and communicate in a multisensory way.”

OK, so how does it work?
“We have a device called Scentee which you attach to your mobile phone. What it does is emit a puff of scent, such as bacon, coffee or lavender, (using chemical cartridges) when you send someone a text message. We have similar devices to produce taste using only electrical current. So if you’re cooking, you can send the taste and smell of your cooking to all of your Facebook friends. We are also looking at touch technology, making devices like RingU, where you connect your ring to the internet via your mobile phone. You can be thinking of your friend, who might be anywhere in the world, and squeeze your ring and they will then get a squeeze on their finger.”

Why should the public be interested in your research?
“Currently the internet is very much about audio and visual communication. But the sense of touch, taste and smell are very important in our physical communication – these senses are connected to the limbic system of the brain which is responsible for emotion and memory. So when you’re chatting online or Skyping, you actually lose a lot of the human emotion. We want to bring these senses to the internet so in the future you will be able to have a sense of presence.”

What are the challenges you face?
“There’s a saying that in the 21st century the most valuable research is time, because now with the internet we basically have infinite information. Yes, time and funding are very important, but you need to have some creativity. You need to have students who are willing to not do incremental work, but what I call quantum step work. In the atom the electrons will fly around in the one band, but that is incremental work. What you need to do is jump to the next quantum gap. We need to have young people who will become scientists and engineers, but it’s really great during education if they are exposed to the creative arts and other fields so they can understand creativity and design.

“We have to remove the barrier between academia and the public, and if you don’t, it is the universities that are going to suffer, because knowledge is going to become more and more free – and you are seeing this now with things like Ted talks. Universities and researchers have to keep up with the internet age and that’s very important to survive in the 21st century.”

What excites you about research?
“I want to invent completely new technology and push the barrier of knowledge. People might think it is really wacky or crazy at the time, but then when you can show them that it really works, you can get a lot of very positive feedback. The most important thing to do is to be totally original.”

New digital smell technology transforms smartphones into smell-o-phones

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http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-digital-smell-technology-transforms-smartphones-into-smell-o-phones/

By ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CBS NEWS

April 1, 2014

When communicating online, words sometimes just aren’t enough, says City University London Professor Adrian David Cheok.

Now, he has a solution: researchers at his Mixed Reality Lab on campus are coming up with ways to say it with a smell — developing cell phone apps and plug-ins that emit scents like flowers, food and spices.

“Smell is a very powerful, powerful sense. It can trigger an emotion or memory at a subconscious level — before we logically think about it,” Cheok tells CBS News.

The lab has already created technology able to send the smell of flowers to a loved one via text — provided the recipient has a special digital device plugged into the earphone jack of their smartphone.

The first application of this technology was the Hana Yakiniku plug-in released in Japan last year. It became available internationally on Amazon in February. The video marketing the Hana Yakiniku attachment presents hilarious digital smell solutions to common problems: the poor college student, for example, who can now dine with his iPhone and sniff beef-scented cartridges of the meat he can’t afford, while eating plain rice for lunch.

The plug in sells for about $35. Refill cartridges come in scents like lavender, coffee, and rosemary — oddly, though, there are no refills for the scent of meat, as advertised in the video. The refills cost about $5.

The technology can be used in a range of commercial applications, from diet programs, advertising and health care, to cooking recipes and personal communications.

“You can send someone a Facebook message, but instead of just putting you are ‘feeling happy,’ you’ll also have the floral smell,” Cheok says.

“For our everyday communication, we want to be able to have a much wider range of experiences being transmitted. Not just sending data, not just sending information — we want to share our experiences,” he adds.

Kraft Food’s Oscar Mayer brand is embracing new smell technology. Its Wake Up & Smell The Bacon internet campaign and giveaway of bacon-scented iPhone plug-ins is going viral. The dream-scape concept video features a woman waking up to the smell of bacon wafting from the device, which can be set to go off with an iPhone’s alarm clock. The official YouTube video racked up more than a half-a-million hits in less than a month.

“People never get tired of bacon,” says Tom Bick, Sr. Director of Integrated Marketing and Advertising for Oscar Mayer. “[We’re] thrilled…to give bacon aficionados a new reason to welcome their morning alarm clocks.”

Oscar Mayer says they’ve received more than 148,000 applications online to receive one of “a few thousand” free plug-in bacon-scent cartridges, which are good for about 100 uses.

When CBS News informally surveyed Londoners, showing them the floral-scented plug-in device attached to an iPhone, reviews were mixed.

“First I thought it was a microphone, because it kind of looks like one. But yeah, it does smell a bit like air freshener,” said Dario Medina, a student from Spain.

But Londoners Gaya Pathma and Allen Koshy seem more impressed by the technology involved than by the smell.

“Just because it is new and different right now, it might be just weird at the moment,” says Koshy. “But once it becomes a trend or something, it will be just fine.”

“It is a scent coming out of a phone. It was a bit scary, but really nice,” Pathma says.

Follow Alphonso Van Marsh on Twitter: @AlphonsoVM

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Smell the Coffee with the Next Wave of the Internet

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http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=1402898

, April 07 , 2014

Will touch, smell and taste be part of the Internet of Everything experience? The ‘pervasive computing’ department of a UK university recently launched a mobile app capable of transmitting aromas remotely, paving the way for a new era of multi-sensory digital communications.

chatperf

Experts have plenty of ideas about what will constitute the next wave of the Internet and mobile communications. But in the ‘Pervasive Computing’ department of City University London  in the UK, Professor Adrian Cheok and his team are certain this will involve a fuller sensory experience – involving smell, taste and touch.

It is a future that is already starting to take shape. In late January, Professor Cheok took his department’s technology to the world-renowned Madrid Fusion culinary festival in Spain, where he unveiled a mobile device and app combination – Scentee – which is capable of emitting food flavors. The technology, developed with a partner in Japan, is believed to be a world first.

Because of the context of the launch, the emphasis at the Madrid festival was the potential for chefs to showcase more of what they do to potential customers – above and beyond photos of their dishes which rarely do their creations justice. But Cheok notes that this is just a glimpse of what’s possible.

‘Wish you were here’

Cheok’s background is in augmented reality – the type of technology we’re seeing now in innovations such as Google Glass. But to achieve a rich simulated reality you need to go beyond audio-visual media, he says. This is also the next area of potential for the Internet, he claims.

“Smell, taste and touch are important means of communication,” Cheok explains. “As we move beyond the ‘information age’ to an era of sharing experiences, what we want to do is give others more of a sense of ‘being there’.”

That means being able to smell the coffee, taste the ice-cream, and feel the touch of another person. Cheok’s innovations include ‘huggable pajamas’, “so parents/grandparents and kids can feel each other’s presence from opposite sides of the world via the Internet,” he explains. A more practical, scaled-down version of this is a wearable ring – RingU – that can remotely transmit a squeeze to a loved one’s hand (via a Bluetooth 4.0 connection to a smartphone). “Touch is so important for communication, and for times when you can’t take a call, receiving a reassuring squeeze via the fingers can mean a lot.” Remote ‘kissing’ applications are further areas of exploration.

Taste and smell, meanwhile, are important because they are attached to the limbic system and associated parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion, mood and memory. The ability to simulate these sensory experiences at distance has great potential in all sorts of applications, from in-store advertising (for example, assigning wafts of scent to frozen food aisles – of what a product would smell like when cooked), to the use of smell as a memory trigger (with potential use for Alzheimer’s patients, and so on).

Emotionally wired

So how does it all work? At this stage the technology is pretty crude, but undoubtedly this will be refined in future iterations, once the mechanics have been perfected.

In a taste scenario, a device with electrodes is used to stimulate taste neurons and taste sensations on the tongue, activated by digitized information sent over the Internet (as chemicals themselves can’t be transmitted). Smell, which continues to be a work in progress, is the subject of similar projects, this time applying magnetic fields to the back of the mouth to stimulate the olfactory receptor, again without chemicals. In the case of Scentee, the smelling device is a bit like an inkjet printer, containing sachets of scents, triggered by a smartphone app.

Cheok sees potential for a fuller sensory experience in TV, cinema and art as well as ‘emotional’ advertising, medical applications, and remote interpersonal communications. The gaming world will undoubtedly be keen to embrace it too – creating even deeper immersion experiences where players are able to smell the burning rubber during a car chase.

He says his university department in the UK is one of only a few groups of computer scientists globally to be looking seriously at multi-sensory media today. The City University London Pervasive Computing faculty combines several disciplines, from electrical engineering (Cheok’s background), to neuroscience.

Cheok has connections to a team in Japan which is doing related work. In particular, a professor in Tokyo is working on new kitchen utensils that can alter the taste of food, for example to artificially make a dish appear sweeter or saltier – without the need to add the actual ingredient. With growing pressure on families and food producers to reduce levels of sugar and salt, this could be a development with both positive health implications and considerable commercial mileage.

Used with the permission of http://thenetwork.cisco.com/.

Sensory hacking: perfume-infused dreams and virtual intimacy

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http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-03/31/touch-taste-and-smell-technology

31 MARCH 14 by KATIE COLLINS

Augmented reality is yesterday’s news. Wired.co.uk takes an in-depth look at some of the developing technology designed to virtually stimulate all five senses

bullipedia-4

“It’s very strong,” I’m warned, but it is already too late — the sour taste of lemons has hit and I’m reminded instantly of how I never could finish those Toxic Waste sweets. My tongue, which is wedged between two metal sensors, cannot bear it for more than a few seconds even now.

I pull off the electrodes and the sensation vanishes. By passing an electrical current through my tongue, they had temporarily tricked my taste receptors into experiencing a sour taste. Varying the frequency of the current allows the electrodes to also simulate other tastes — sweet, salt and bitter.

Wired.co.uk first saw this taste actuator device when it part of a shortlisted proposal for Ferran Adrià’s Hacking Bullipedia competition. The proposal, put together by Professor Adrian Cheok, founder and director of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab, didn’t win the competition, but one of the other main elements of Cheok’s proposal has already successfully been made into a commercial product.

scentee_1

The Scentee is a module that can be attached to the bottom of a smartphone and emits puff of scent using chemical cartridges. It simply slots into the phone’s headphone jack and works in conjunction with an app. The basic idea behind it is that you can send aromas over the internet, although the technology is increasingly being appropriated as a marketing tool.

MICHELIN-STAR ODOURS

While the Scentee may have failed to win favour with Ferran Adrià, that doesn’t mean there’s no place for it in the world of fine dining. In one commercial project the device, along with a dedicated app, is being used to create a pre-dinner treat for customers of the Michelin-starred Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain, which is currently listed as the fourth best restaurant in the world.

Mugaritz’s head chef, who trained under Adrià at El Bulli, is using the Scentee to connect with customers who might make bookings several months in advance, by giving them a small taste (or whiff) of what to expect from one of his dishes beforehand.

mugaritz

“It’s basically very simple, they give you different kinds of seeds in this bowl and you grind it and it’s multisensory — the sound, the smell, the vision — and the taste of course — so finally you drink it,” explains Cheok.

The Mugaritz team created an app that they will tell diners to download when they send them the Scentee device. The app recreates virtually the experience of crushing the seeds in a pestle and mortar, allowing the user to experience the sound and smell of making the dish. Holding the phone horizontal, Cheok demos the app, which allows for a partial view inside a mortar. As the phone — which acts as the pestle — is gently moved around using a stirring action however, more of the mortar is shown and seeds drop into the bowl with a tinkle.

“That’s the actual sound they recorded from the mortar,” he says, as it rings gently. After gently rotating the phone for a while, the Scentee device emits puffs of pepper, sesame and saffron, all of which were also created in the restaurant’s kitchen. “What he’s saying is that he wants to share the experience of the restaurant even before you go there.

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE BACON

The Scentee is also being used more widely in advertising campaigns, including on television. One particular campaign in the US has seen bacon company Oscar Meyer make a thousand or so bacon capsule, which it is sending out with Scentees to competition winners, with the promises they can wake up to the smell of fresh bacon as their phone goes off in the morning.

While there is nothing else quite like the Scentee available on the market, the chemical stimulation of smell is not in itself particularly new idea. At the moment, however, Cheok is planning to use his previous work using the Scentee and the taste actuator to help him try and build an element that will be able to stimulate smell electronically.

“If we can do it, I think it would be the first time anyone makes an artificial smell sensation,” says Cheok. It’s a tricky task because of where the olfactory bulb — the neural structure that perceives odours — sits in the brain. It’s tucked right at the back of the nasal cavity and is very soft and spongy, which would make it hard to attach electrodes to even if it could be reached. Instead, Cheok has something completely non-invasive in mind.

“We will put a magnetic coil at the back of the mouth — so maybe something like a dental guard you can wear — and because the olfactory bulb is quite close to the palatine bone, we can use time-varying magnetic fields to produce electrical currents in the olfactory bulbs. That will then produce artificial smell simulation, similar to the taste,” he explains.

“Using this technique, we can also produce the more complicated smells so because you know our tongue is only the basic five tastes — sour, salty, sweet, bitter and umami — everything else which is actually flavour is from our nasal cavity, so when we develop this it’ll be much more complicated.”

This is the research Cheok is currently undertaking at his lab at City University in London where he is professor of pervasive computing. While he’s not sure actually sure what kind of product it might become a part of yet, he says he confident that “something will come along”. “Sometimes you have to push the barriers of science and then people will come up with their own application.”

Cheok has been based at City University for under a year, before which he was based at Keio University in Japan and the National University of Singapore. He first became interested in the kind of simulating touch, smell and taste when he was working on a project to build an augmented reality toolkit about ten years ago. While it was groundbreaking at the time, he quickly realised it was stimulating only one of our senses, despite all the available data and potential for communication across multiple channels. “So that’s basically the motivation,” he says. “Can we go from the age of information to the age of experience?”

THE AGE OF VIRTUAL INTIMACY

“You can have a virtual animal there — a 3D dog or something — but people always wanted to touch it, it’s just a natural reaction. When you see objects, touching is a very important part of how we explore the world, so I realised we had to go beyond just augmenting our vision and we should also try to augment all of the five senses. More and more of our communication now is done online, but online we still can’t get the sense of presence we have in the physical world,” said Cheok.

This started him working on replicating touch. He kicked off his research by developing ways for people to overcome the difficulties of interacting with their pets from a distance (“it’s very hard to make a telephone call, because we can’t speak to animals yet”), by creating a squeezable doll that would trigger pressure actuators on the animal’s body.

This research morphed into a project called the Huggy Pajama, which was designed to allow similar communication between parents and toddlers wearing haptic jackets. The concept has now been turned into a commercial product that’s specifically designed to help give comfort to children with autism who have difficulty with human-to-human contact.

Cheok along with his colleagues at the National University in Singapore conducted research into the emotional impact of this kind of touch, publishing a paper in 2008 entitledSqueeze me, but don’t tease me, which concluded that “touch seems to be a special sensory signal that influences recipients in the absence of conscious reflection and that promotes prosocial behaviour”.

It’s already a well-known phenomenon that if you’re being touched by another human while watching a horror film, you have a decreased fear response, but the team’s research showed that touch using virtual devices provoked an almost identical decrease in fear response.

“Similar to taste and smell, touch has a different part of the brain processing the haptic sensation than audiovisual. So it’s not like if you just write ‘hug’ in your email — it’s definitely different actually really hugging, because it’s a different part of your brain which is actuated when you’re doing the hug. Having this actual touch sensation does produce a different response.”

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Of course there are many different potential applications here for consumer products too. Cheok and his small team at City are currently working hard to meet their deadline on the RingU, a piece of jewellery that transmits a haptic vibration to the wearer of a paired ring when the silicon gem on the top is pressed. Three tiny LEDs, smaller than pin heads will also cause the ring to glow gently when the ‘hug’ is transmitted. The finished product is due to launch in Japan and Korea first, and then will eventually be available in the UK as well.

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ringu

As well as being a standalone consumer product used for long-distance personal communication, Cheok envisages that the RingU will be branded by bands, who will then be able to communicate with teenage fans at concerts in a similar way to Xylobands. “Of course one pop star can’t hug a million fans, but this way we can have a virtual hug and so fans will like that — a different kind of connection.

“With vision and sound it is omni-directional, so you can go to a concert and hundreds of thousands of people can hear the music, but with touch it’s very limited, it’s very intimate,” he adds.

Speaking of intimate, Cheok is also currently working on the latest version of the Kissenger, a device that allows people to send kiss messages over the internet. Wired.co.uk first reported on the product when it involved kissing spherical robotic pigs, but the new iteration will look very different (and, thankfully, not at all like an animal). Users will attach a module to the bottom of their smartphones, a little bit like the Scentee, and will then be able to kiss face-to-face while video calling. The resolution on the module will be much higher, says Cheok, working like a pin image captor in order to provide a very detailed and precise level of feedback.

kissenger

It’s not only whimsical consumer products being developed thanks to the evolving haptic touch technology though. As Cheok points out, there are also a lot of potential applications in related areas like robotics. “Robots need to be able to sense the physical world, especially humanoid robots, and also for example, home robots. It will be carrying grandma to bed or something and so it needs to be able to have very realistic touch.”

Collaboration is not only a vital part of finding applications for the technology, but for understanding the potential scientific benefits of the research. While attempting to create the electrical smell simulator, Cheok will be working alongside a neuroscientist from the University of Marseille to discover more about the actual areas of the brain that are being stimulated when people experience electrical tastes and smells, compared to those being stimulated when they experience the real deal.

lemon

“For example, this,” says Cheok gesturing to the taste actuator, “allows taste perception of sour, but we’re not really sure yet whether it stimulates the same parts of the brain as the real sour, so we’re going to do these experiments and compare.” They will study the brain signals they observe from people using the smell and taste technology inside an MFRI machine, as well as brain signals from people who have had drops of liquid put on their tongues.

PROGRAMMING DREAMS WITH SMELL

Many of Cheoks biggest hopes and dreams for future research will require closer work with neuroscientists, particularly to test the technology as widely as possible across potential areas for application, including mental health. Even though he could potentially pursue the entrepreneurship opportunities his research opens up, his ambitions lie in pushing the boundaries of science.

“I’ve been thinking for a few years now, can we interface with people when they’re sleeping? So much of computer technology is focused on the conscious communication, but a lot of communication is subconscious.”

dreamcatcher

Cheok has been inspired to pursue this idea further by a piece of recent research that discovered people could be taught to remember aromas they had smelt for the first time when they were asleep. After exposing test subjects to smells while sleeping, they were then put in a magnetic imaging machine, which could see that when exposed to that same smell again, the area of the brain relating to memory was activated.

“Because smell is connected to emotion, we want to see if we can programme people’s dreams,” states Cheok boldly. “We want to see if we can use these kind of smell devices, for example, to make a happy dream or a fearful dream.” His hope is that this could potentially be used to help treat those who suffer from bad dreams due to post-traumatic stress.

Once they have built the technology, the first step would be to test its effect on the emotion of people who are awake, and then repeat the experiment on people who are asleep. From there, they could go about beginning to work out how people would use it — although, says Cheok, given that most people take their phones to bed with them these days, that should be fairly easy. “You’ve already got a device that’s a computer and can emit a smell… so then you could use this to affect people’s sleep and maybe even new kinds of learning.”

Cheok’s big dreams do not stop there though. His current work relies on finding ways to stimulate the sensors that activate the olfactory bulb and simulate the effects of touch, but ultimately he would like to be able to find a way to bypass the sensors and go to directly to the brain itself.

“This might seem a little bit science fiction now, but already there’s been some work where they can connect the optical fibre to the neuron of an animal,” he says. “That means we can already send some electrical signal from a computer to a neuron and it really won’t take long until we can do this for hundreds and thousands of neurons. Eventually I think we’re going to see in our lifetime some direct brain interface and that will be probably the next stage of this research.”

This moonshot strategy might seem overly ambitious, but it’s worked for Cheok before and he believes he will again. “What I always say to students is do research that is a quantum step, not just incremental,” he says. “We’re not always successful, because sometimes you can’t get a thing to work.. but that’s what we’re aiming for.”

 

Interview on CNN: Forget text messaging, the ‘oPhone’ lets you send smells

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http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/17/tech/innovation/the-ophone-phone-lets-you-send-smells/

By Kieron Monks for CNN

March 17, 2014

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Already on the market is the Scentee plug-in. It allows a smartphone user to attach a small device to their phone and receive “smell notifications” when a message arrives.
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Currently, each device can only emit one smell at a time: “Right now it’s the equivalent of music before MP3s,” says augmented reality professor Adrian Cheok. “You had to record a song on a tape and physically give it someone.”
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Dr Cheok (right) is hoping to change this. Alongside chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, he presented the “world’s first digital smell app” at the Madrid Fusion 2014 food festival.
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The device contains magnetic coils that send electric signals into the brain’s olfactory bulb to simulate the effect of smell. Cheok hopes to have a prototype available within two years.

(CNN) — Holiday albums could be less forgettable when pictures of a Mediterranean meal carry the scent of olives; a selfie on the beach contains a trace of salt spray or a rainy London scene conveys the distinctive aroma of freshly wet concrete.

If the digital age has increased the volume of communication, it may not have improved the quality. Reversing that trend is the goal of a new generation of sensory engineers who are going beyond sight and sound to produce devices that use our untapped faculties. Perhaps the most exciting breakthroughs right now are arriving in the form of smell-centered communication.

“Our motto is ‘aroma tells a thousand pictures'”, says Dr. David Edwards, biomedical engineer at Harvard and founder of Le Laboratoire, known for producing radical sensory devices such as calorie-free chocolate spray. Every human has thousands of distinct smell sensors, Edwards explains, a resource he taps with his newest invention the oPhone.

Set for a beta launch in July, this phone offers the most sophisticated smell messaging yet created. In collaboration with Paris perfumers Givaudan and baristas Café Coutume, Edwards has created a menu of scents, contained in ‘Ochips’. MIT electrical engineer Eyal Shahar designed containers for them that release when heated by the touch of a button, but cool quickly to keep smells distinct and localized, a historic difficulty with the much-mocked smell-o-vision experiments in cinema.

Mix and match

The oPhone user can mix and match aromas and then send their composition as a message, which will be recreated on a fellow user’s device. Up to 356 combinations will be possible in the first wave, rising to several thousand in the next year, and the dream is an exhaustive base — the ‘universal chip’.

“Biologically we respond powerfully to aroma, so if we become familiar with the design of aromatic communication we might be able to say things we couldn’t before”, says Edwards. He sees the limited aromas of the oPhone as the first letters of a rich new language, that may be used as a basis for novels and symphonies. The faith is grounded on the acknowledged influence of smell on the subconscious, and the potential to learn its secrets.

The first oPhones will be limited to a select community of coffee enthusiasts. But the launch on July 10 will be accompanied by a more inclusive product: the first olfactory social network.

Our motto is ‘aroma tells a thousand pictures’. – Dr. David Edwards

A free app will allow anyone to compose and send a smell note by text or email, based on a set menu of aromas and variations. The message can be received by any normal phone as a text. The recipient can then download the composition from hotspots which will be set up in the launch city of Boston.

“We’re expecting an interest in self-expression and we’re ready to learn with the public”, says Edwards. “We would like to be reactive as new ideas for aromatic vocabularies arise, and to continue providing them for new interests.”

He is betting the public around Boston’s famous technology centers are early adopters, and will take the concept forward. Beyond the city, the network will include a public interface for people to trade tips and recipes, and store them in cloud software. Edwards plans to feature ‘smell emoticons’ and viral stunts, and may offer a mixing deck that allows overlap with music production software.

The concept can benefit from saturation of the current communication market, says trend analyst and editor of ‘Green Futures’ Anna Simpson. “We’re reaching a limit with what we can do with text data, and there is the potential to connect more deeply and personally through smell.”

Simpson also believes a consumer shift toward experience could drive adoption. “There is growing interest from brands in resources for creating richer experiences.

Smelly start-ups

Giants such as Olympus are publishing research, but for now start-ups are taking the initiative. Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab has been prolific in this space, engineering Japanese device Scentee that allows users to send a single fragrance between them. The company released an app worldwide in February, and has lucrative partnerships such as with Mugaritz restaurant in Spain, that allows for online cooking tutorials with leading chefs to give students a whiff of the smell they are aiming for.

We’re reaching a limit with what we can do with text data, and there is the potential to connect more deeply and personally through smell. – Anna Simpson

“Right now it’s the equivalent of music before mp3s, when you had to record a song on a tape and physically give it someone”, says Dr. Adrian Cheok, founder of the Mixed Reality Lab and professor of pervasive technology at City University, London. “We can send a basic scent through a device like Scentee, but we need the framework to make millions of them available through digitization.”

Cheok is testing a device that would connect us directly to the Internet, inspired by the successful connection of optical fibres to neurons of mice. His lab experiments involve subjects wearing a mouthguard-like device containing magnetic coils, from which electric signals are directed into the olfactory bowl to simulate the effect of smell. The wearer’s brains are scanned before and after to pinpoint the effect, and the results have encouraged Cheok enough to believe a prototype could be available in two years.

A similar technique has already born fruit with a similar design simulating the effects of taste. But taste has just four primary forms — bitter, sweet, salty, sour– whereas smell involves identifying individual molecules with no primary form.

“The most basic smell still has hundreds of molecules and you need analytical chemistry to see what’s there”, says Dr. Joel Mainland of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. “Perhaps only 5% would have an impact on smell, so it’s difficult to pick them out. It’s more trial and error than quantitative science.”

Healthy aroma

Monell are also pursuing the goal of digitizing olfaction, with healthcare applications high on the agenda. One of their research areas is seeking smell biomarkers in cancer patients, using an ‘e-nose’ to hunt chemicals in the blood to deliver early diagnosis. The process was inspired by the ability of dogs to sense sickness, although their smelling ability is multiples higher.

Although this research is still young in the lab, similar technology is already being smartphone-enabled. A NASA-developed chemical sensor has been released to a commercial partner as the basis for mobile applications that could breath-test users. UK Nanotechnology company Owlstone are raising several million dollars in venture capital for a handheld sensor that that could detect a wider range of diseases.

Medical uses are high on the agenda for the burgeoning Digital Olfaction Society, whose upcoming conference will discuss olfaction technology for identifying dangerous gases, guidance for the blind and cognitive aid for Alzheimer’s sufferers. But industries as varied as military, travel, jewellery, food and entertainment will also be represented.

Dr. Cheok believes the ultimate direction of goal is a multi-sensory device unifying all five senses to create an immersive virtual reality, and could be usable within five years. The neglected senses are making up for lost time.

BBC TV Feature: Can an ‘electronic lollipop’ simulate taste?

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http://www.live.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26487218

8 March 2014 Last updated at 00:09 GMT

Scientists at City University, London have developed a machine that they say is able to simulate taste.

When touched on the tongue, the experts claim that the so called “electronic lollipop” is able to trick taste receptors using an electronic signal.

BBC Click’s Spencer Kelly reports.

Watch more clips on the Click website. If you are in the UK you can watch the whole programme on BBC iPlayer.

BBC TV Feature: How to turn your smartphone into a ‘smell phone’

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bbc-blocks-dark http://www.live.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26526916

12 March 2014 Last updated at 08:26 GMT

Award-winning chef Andoni Luis Aduriz is developing an app to bring the full sensory experience of his cooking to smartphones.

The app allows the user to virtually recreate one of his signature dishes which can then be smelt through the use of a device which plugs into the phone. BBC Click’s Lara Lewington reports. Watch more clips on the Click website. If you are in the UK you can watch the whole programme on BBC iPlayer.
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