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.

scent-of-success-smartphone-smellovision-tipped-for-2015-glory_2

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’.

http://full-timewhistle.com/technology-22/scent-of-success-smartphone-smellovision-tipped-for-2015-glory-340.html

 

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.”

http://www.billionairesaustralia.com/wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee-with-your-smartphone/

Send a Scent via Text? Smelltext Might be Big in 2015 … or Not

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By Anu Passary, Tech Times | December 22, 12:43 AM

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Sending a smelltext or scent via text messaging on the oPhone could be the next craze in 2015. With several devices supporting the functionality, smelltext is poised to take the consumer space by storm. (Photo : oNotes)

Sending a scent via text messaging is poised to be the next big thing in 2015, says British innovation charity Nesta.

According to the group’s top 10 prediction list for 2015, “smell-o-grams” or smelltexts via a smartphone will be the craze in the coming months.

Imagine that instead of buying roses for your loved one, you can send him or her a smell-o-gram via your smartphone. Sounds far-fetched? Not at all.

In 1960, Smell-O-Vision, a similar system that diffused odors, was used during the screening of the film Scent of Mystery. The idea was to make cinemagoers associate the smell with the ongoing action in each scene. However, the invention did not go down too well with viewers. Time magazine even voted it the worst invention ever.

The concept for 2015 perhaps reeks the smell of success, thanks to the advent of more advanced applications. Earlier in 2014, researchers at Harvard deployed an iPhone app to communicate the smell of macaroons and champagne from Paris to New York.

“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,” said Josh McNorton, Nesta’s project manager. “In 2015, I predict that the ability to digitally transmit smells will hit the mainstream.”

Sending smells along with a picture over the smartphone is already possible because of Adrian Cheok’s invention Scentee, which can be plugged into the headphone socket of a smartphone. Scentee uses aroma cartridges that are alcohol-based to diffuse wisps of vapor once it has been triggered into action.

Another device that could assist in making smelltexts mainstream is the pipe-shaped oPhone Duo, which iscapable of producing over 300,000 fragrances by deploying aroma combos from nearly eight vapor cartridges. oPhone enables users to send smelltexts or oNotes via its oSnap app.

Whether smelltexts will indeed be the next big thing or fail to strike a note with consumers like Smell-O-Vision remains to be seen.

READ MORE: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/22629/20141222/send-scent-via-text-smelltext-big-2015.htm

Smell-O-Vision for the 21st Century: Phones able to send scented messages are among ten emerging technologies for 2015

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  • Scientists sent smell of champagne from Paris to US with iPhone in June 
  • oPhone Duo device can recreate smell out of palette of 32 available scents
  • And the Scentee iPhone attachment can release aroma upon receiving text
  • Emerging technologies forecast by innovation charity Nesta to make it big 
  • Others include life-saving apps and food waste feeding millions of people 

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.

 ophone

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.

scentee

Nesta project manager Josh McNorton said: ‘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.

‘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’.

SMELLS ON SCREENS: A HISTORY

Smell-O-Vision was a system created in 1960 by Hans Laube, and was used in cinemas during the film Scent of Mystery.

The system was fitted to cinema seats and released 30 smells at different points during the film, triggered by the film’s soundtrack. Smells included pipe tobacco.

In 2013, researchers in Tokyo developed a prototype smelling screen. The smelling screen combines a digital display with four small fans, one at each corner of the display.

Smells are stored in gel packets and are released at set times. The smells are blown parallel to the screen. By varying the speed and strength of each fan, the different smells are moved to specific areas of the screen.

2015’S TRENDS, SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND TECH BREAKTHROUGHS (via Nesta)
  1. Democracy makes itself at home online: 2015 will see the creation of new political parties organised in radically different ways
  2. Smell-O-Vision loses its stink: This year you’ll receive an SMS with a difference as technology is introduced to transmit scents through your smartphone
  3. Internet of everything, coming to a neighbourhood near you: 2015 will bring new network technologies that connect constellations of low-powered sensors across entire districts, creating widespread smart civic infrastructure
  4. Digital art gets up close and personal: This year digital art will become entrenched in daily life as cultural producers exploit digital technologies to create more accessible experiences
  5. Killer apps for life savers: This year smartphone tech will fuel the biggest innovation in first aid for over 100 years
  6. Crafts get a 21st century makeover: Shared access to digital fabrication tools such as laser cutters and 3D printers will create a new breed of digital artisan manufacturers
  7. Gleaning will change our attitude to food waste: In 2015, enough fruit and veg will be diverted from food waste to offer millions one of their five a day
  8. A bust funded by the crowd: 2015 will see a high-profile blow-up in the world of crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending. But this is a good sign, not a bad one
  9. Programming a new generation of digital makers: From apps to films, in 2015 every young person across the UK will make and share something digital
  10. Crowd-aware billboards: This year cities will play host to Minority Report style billboards broadcasting tailored content based on data from your GPS-enabled phone

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2880142/Smell-O-Vision-21st-Century-Phones-able-send-scented-messages-ten-emerging-technologies-2015.html#ixzz3NQ6YZylo

Smellovision loses its stink

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This year you’ll receive an SMS with a difference as technology is introduced to transmit scents through your smartphone, says Josh McNorton

smell_o_vision_1Imagine 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. 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.

Digitising messages, images and sounds is so last century. In 2014, scientists in the UK, US and Japan have 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 current leading device for digital smell transmission is a smartphone attachment called Scentee, developed in Japan and available there and in the US. Scentee can release a puff of coffee or bacon-scented mist to wake you up in the morning (unsurprisingly, this technology was used in a promotional campaign by the Oscar Mayer meat company called Wake Up and Smell the Bacon).

Scent transmission

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. The signal is transmitted digitally to the device’s ultrasonic transducer, which then releases the scent as a puff of vapour.

Mugaritz, one of the world’s top-ranked restaurants, has paired Scentee with its mobile app to virtually evoke the aromas of some of its signature dishes. The technology behind Scentee opens the door to a new form of digital escapism. In the case of Mugaritz, users can experience the bouquets of a Michelin-star meal from a restaurant in northern Spain without leaving the UK (or spending the money to eat there).

Adrian Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London, developed the technology behind Scentee and is currently working on a device that doesn’t rely on chemicals or pre-set cartridges. Instead, the latest technology sends a magnetic signal to a mouthguard which sits in the back of the throat and stimulates the olfactory bulb.

Virtual tours

If an electronic mouthguard isn’t to your taste, scientists at Harvard have developed the oPhone, a pipe-shaped device made for receiving scent messages (called oNotes) triggered by an iPhone app called oSnap. The app allows you to take a photo and choose one of thousands of aromas to tag it with before sending. In the very near future, we will use devices like the oPhone to take a virtual tour of Marrakech, absorbing all the sounds, sights and smells of the souks and market square.

Professor Cheok and a team of City University researchers have also been studying the effect of synthetic smells, sent via the Internet, on emotions. The implications for marketing are huge. Could the digital scent of salt water and sea breeze on a travel website increase your likelihood of booking a beach holiday?

It’s been half a century since the concept was first introduced to unimpressed cinema audiences and we’ve since voted it one of the worst inventions of all time. But while we’ve turned our noses up at past attempts, I believe 2015 is the year smellovision will finally lose its stink.

Adrian Cheok will be presenting his latest prototypes and projects at FutureFest, Nesta’s two-day festival of innovation on 14-15 March 2015 in London.

– See more at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/news/2015-predictions/smellovision-loses-its-stink#sthash.iiTDf861.dpuf

City’s Department of Computer Science is prominently featured in the 2014 Royal Institution Lectures

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22 December 2014

During this year’s distinguished annual event, schoolchildren were treated to a robot orchestra performance and a taste of the electric lollipop developed by City’s Professor Adrian Cheok.

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City’s Department of Computer Science has played a prominent role in the 2014 Royal Institution (RI) Christmas Lectures, which were presented by Professor Danielle George, with the theme, ‘Sparks Will Fly’. The lectures will be broadcast on BBC Four at 8pm on December 29th, 30th and 31st.

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The RI Christmas Lecture Series, regarded as an annual highlight for a science event addressed to young people, is a series of talks on a single topic. The lectures have been held at London’s Royal Institution each year since 1825, except for the period 1939-1942 due to the Second World War.

 

 

 
Michael Faraday initiated the first RI Christmas Lecture Series in 1825 at a time when organised education for young people was scarce. Since then the lectures have followed a tradition of presenting scientific subjects to a general audience in an informative and entertaining manner.

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During this year’s RI lectures, opportunities were provided for children in the audience to test out the world’s first electrical lollipop and Scentee smartphone smell app developed by Professor Adrian Cheok’s pervasive computing research team. PhD students Emma Yann Zhang, Gilang Pradana and visiting researcher Shogo Nishiguchi helped to demonstrate the taste and smell devices in the Royal Institution. The lecture will be broadcast on BBC Four on 30th December at 8pm.

 

 

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Young volunteer Zara Rashid, 11, of Henrietta Barnet School in Hampstead, said:
“I thought the electronic lollipop was really cool, it was hard to work out exactly what the flavour was with just the lollipop but when there was a smell as well that made the taste much sharper. I really enjoyed the Christmas Lectures!”

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.city.ac.uk/news/2014/dec/citys-department-of-computer-science-is-prominently-featured-in-the-2014-royal-institution-lectures/

Stephen Hawking: Sentient Machines ‘Could End Human Race’

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‘Humanoid’ robots are the future, pupils are told

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by Andrew Robinson

17 Nov 2014, 16:17

scientists are creating lifelike robots which may one day help with the household chores or care for the sick, Yorkshire pupils were told.

Robots have long been touted as the solution to a lot of mankind’s problems and yesterday scientists were just as optimistic about what the future might hold.

Pupils aged 11 and 12 from Horizon Community College in Barnsley met world-renowned ‘roboticists’ at Sheffield University.

The practical event was hosted by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University in Japan and Professor Adrian Cheok from City University in London.

Professor Ishiguro’s laboratory developed Geminoid, a robot with lifelike appearance including facial movements.

Pupils took part in a demonstration of ‘humanoid robots’ developed by Professor Ishiguro and had the opportunity to develop and programme their own Lego robot.

They also learned about the history of robots and how they can be programmed to learn and behave in a human-like way.

The workshop event was hosted by Sheffield Centre for Robotics as part of its outreach activities.

See full post with video on: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/general-news/humanoid-robots-are-the-future-pupils-are-told-1-6957443

I Believe That It Will Become Perfectly Normal for People to Have Sex With Robots | Newsweek

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By / October 23, 2014 10:48 AM EDT

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Sex dolls are becoming increasingly realistic. Stacey Leigh

“When I started out,” says David Levy, international chess champion and expert in artificial intelligence, “I didn’t know anything about artificial vaginas. It is quite extraordinary how much interest there is in that subject.”

Levy’s book, Love and Sex with Robots, is perhaps the fullest exploration of the future of humans and robots, especially their interaction in the bedroom. It explores the details of internet-linked devices that transmit real physical contact.

And Levy is no fantasist. He is the only person to win the Loebner prize – an annual competition to determine which chat software is the most realistic – in two separate decades, first in 1997 and again in 2009.

It was while researching his 2003 book, Robots Unlimited, that he first became interested in the subject. Specifically, he read a quote from a 1984 book by Sherry Turkel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An interviewee, ‘Anthony’, told Turkel that he had tried having girlfriends but preferred his relationship with his computer.

“That quotation hit me like a brick wall,” says Levy. “I thought – if a smart guy could think like that in 1984, I wonder how much the concept of human-computer emotional relationships has developed since then.”

A great deal is the answer. Adrian David Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing at London’s City University, has been refining a device called a Kissinger: a set of pressure-sensitive artificial lips that can transmit a kiss from a real mouth to a similar device owned by a partner who might be thousands of miles away.

The Kissinger system has been in development for about eight years, with the latest model designed to plug into a smartphone. By kissing the screen, the movements of a person’s lips can be mirrored in the other machine and that kiss will be given to whoever has his or her mouth against a corresponding machine.

Several companies have shown an interest in the device and Cheok expects to see it hit the market in mid-2015.

Adrian Cheok at City University has been covering mixed reality, human-computer interfaces and wearable computers throughout his career. Photo courtesy Sophie Gost, City University London

Eventually, Cheok believes, “almost every physical thing, every being, every body, will be connected to the internet in some way.’’

The future, he says, will involve the subconscious part of the brain. We already have intimate data on the internet, but we still don’t feel that we can really know somebody online. There’s something missing between the experience of making a Skype call and meeting someone. And this is where transmitting the other senses is so ­important.”

Levy, 69, and Cheok, 42, have teamed up to work on a new “chat agent” – software that can understand and respond to natural human language and speech. The project, named I-Friend, will be based on artificial intelligence software that won Levy and his team the Loebner prize for a second time in 2009.

“It will be one of the most realistic artificial chat agents when the project is finished,” says Cheok.

Levy is keen to stress the versatility of the software they’re developing. The I-Friend, he says, can be configured for any embodiment and persona that the market requires.“It could, for example, be an upmarket toy such as a furry animal or a creature from another planet; or a web avatar that repeatedly turns the conversation to discuss a company and its products; or a mobile app such as a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend.”

Cheok adds: “In the first instance, it could probably replace all the phone sex for which people for some reason pay very high rates.” Ultimately, however, the aim would be for it to be “used in robots for artificial love and sex chat”.

And this is where the artificial vaginas come in.

“I believe it is going to be perfectly normal that people will be friends with robots, and that people will have sex with robots,” says Cheok. “All media will touch humanity.”

There is already a market for realistic-looking life-sized dolls made from a durable high elastometer silicone material. Female dolls either have fixed or removable vaginas and cost anything from $5,000-$8,000. But they don’t do anything. They are unresponsive.

In time, Levy predicts, it will be quite normal for people to buy robots as companions and lovers. “I believe that loving sex robots will be a great boon to society,” he says. “There are millions of people out there who, for one reason or another, cannot establish good relationships.”

And when does he think this might come about? “I think we’re talking about the middle of the century, if you are referring to a robot that many people would find appealing as a companion, lover, or possible spouse.”

Spouse?

“Yes.”

sex-doll-heads
High-quality silicone and moveable joints bring life-sized simulation dolls that much closer to looking and feeling like human beings… and soon they might be able to hold a conversation as well. David McNew/Getty

Levy, a former Chess Master who represented Scotland, developed his interest in computing while studying at St Andrews university and later as a computer science postgraduate at the University of Glasgow, where he taught his students to program. During this time, he began looking into the programming of chess, which ultimately led to an interest in human-computer conversation.

He and Cheok’s “I-Friends” will have a sophisticated module which will endow the software with emotions, personality and moods. They aim to tailor the software to any required persona, for example a girlfriend or boyfriend who will be able to take part in continual and varied sexually-charged conversations.

I-Friends is a range of conversational software companions based on Artificial Intelligence. Its working name is “Do-Much-More”. Levy and Cheok currently are trying to commercialise this chatbot [a program designed to simulate intelligent conversation] by adding significantly to its conversational capabilities.

It will serve as a software core that can be configured for anything the market requires. It could, for example, discuss a company and its products; or a mobile app such as a virtual girlfriend or boyfriend; or a server based application with which cell phone users can interact via SMS messaging.The same core software can be used as the basis for any desired character, simply by changing the data that defines the persona.

“The very first chatbot was the famous ELIZA program written at MIT in the 1960s, named after Eliza Dolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion,’’ says Levy. “ELIZA did very little but caused a stir at the time and is well documented in the Artificial Intelligence literature. Our first chatbot program had the name Do-A-Lot because it did more than ELIZA. Our second generation chatbot does even more, and was therefore given the working name Do-Much-More.’’

Levy says consumers eventually will be able to experience “appropriately designed artificial genitalia’’ that feel and behave like the real thing.

“There will be body warmth, synthesised speech, moving limbs. The first sex robots will be primitive in quality but with time more sophisticated ones will be available.’’

Do-Much-More delivers a significant leap in performance relative to the original Do-A-Lot software. That leap has been achieved by ­retaining the original strengths of Do-A-Lot, enhancing its power by extending its system of “variables” (word types) and its morphology (for example by the inclusion of phrasal verbs), and increasing the sophistication of its response ­generation system through the use of two important lexical resources that have been developed within the Computational Linguistics community in the academic world: WordNet and ConceptNet.

WordNet is a semantic lexicon for the English language. It groups English words into sets of synonyms called synsets, provides short, general definitions, and records the various semantic relations between these synonym sets.

The purpose is twofold: to produce a combination of a dictionary and thesaurus that is more intuitively usable, and to support automatic text analysis and artificial intelligence applications. The database and software tools have been released under a formal license and can be downloaded and used freely.

ConceptNet is knowledge-based, created as part of the Open Mind Common Sense project, which is an artificial intelligence scheme based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The goal is to build what’s known as a large “common sense knowledge base’’ developed from the contributions of many thousands of people across the web.

“We employ WordNet to provide Do-Much-More with certain useful linguistic data about words, helping us to generate responses that generally appear to be natural in terms of word association,’’ says Levy. “And we employ ConceptNet to provide Do-Much-More with real-world commonsense information so that Do-Much-More sometimes appears not only to understand what the user is saying but also to know something about the subject.’’

Cheok likens this development to the early days of mobile telephones.

“There were these businessmen with these bricks and you thought it so geeky and who’d ever want to use that?’’ he says. “Initially, some technologies are a niche market. But once enough people use it you have a kind of bandwagon effect. Now, sure you can choose not to have a mobile phone, but because everyone else has got one, it’s become the new social norm. So I think a lot of these technologies will become like that – including robotics and mixed reality and all these things that people initially might find a ­little bit scary.’’

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that David Levy was the only person to win the Loebner prize twice. He is in fact the only person to win it in two separate decades.

http://www.newsweek.com/2014/10/31/sex-robots-278791.html

Creating the sense of bonding – The Positive

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By Christopher Vautrinot

Technology-aims-to-incorporate-all-the-human-senses.Credit@MoodboardPablofernandez-Rileykaminerviaflickr.com_
Technology aims to incorporate all the human senses.Credit@Moodboard,Pablofernandez, Rileykaminerviaflickr.com

Human communication often encompasses a mixture of senses. People connect with one and other through a combination of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. The virtual world aims to become a popular mode of communication as individuals form bonds with people across the world. This technology currently engages two of the senses – sight and sound. However, Professor Adrien David Cheok, director of the Mixed Reality Lab, believes that virtual communication may one day embrace all the human senses – making it a truly physical experience. Professor Cheok is at the forefront of this technology, integrating touch, taste and smell into current technology. ‘Telepresent technology’ may help form and maintain relationships at distances in an increasingly globalised world. Combining pre-existing mobile technology and a plug-in device, the Scentee provides smell based notifications to the user. Designed by Professor Cheok, the small bulb like device releases scents from cartridges. For example a user may choose to set their alarm to wake up to the smell of coffee, or they may receive a certain smell depending on who contacts them. Professor Cheok’s Scentee has proved popular in Japan on a commercial scale, and has more recently become available worldwide. Whilst digitilising this chemical sensation is challenging, Professor Cheok aims to further the technology by manufacturing a magnetic coil that sits near the olfactory bulb (part of the brain responsible for interpreting smell). This would stimulate the artificial perception of smell. “It is actually true that a smell can subconsciously change your mood, so they are very important senses that you can bring to the internet.”

The-Scentee-has-been-released-on-a-commercial-scale.-Credit@ProfessorCheok. (1)
The Scentee has been released on a commercial scale. Credit@ProfessorCheok.

Taste is another sense which Professor Cheok aims to bring into the virtual world. He has developed a device which stimulates the tongue through electrical impulses. It may recreate sweet, sour, salty or bitter sensations. Using different combinations of heat and amperage Professor Cheok and his team are experimenting to develop a host of different tastes through the device. The team envisions a future where family members may be able to experience eating together at the dinner table from the other side of the planet.

Replicating the sensation of taste through technology. Credit@ProfessorCheok. - See more at: http://thepositive.com/creating-the-sense-of-bonding/#sthash.wfmo6hGR.dpuf
Replicating the sensation of taste through technology. Credit@ProfessorCheok.

Touch is the final sense in the physical jigsaw. Through such behavior as hugging, touch has the ability to comfort and create a sense of safety. Professor Cheok created the ‘Huggy Pajama’ designed primarily for parents who may want to send hugs to their children when away at work. Connected through the internet, the wearable jacket is filled with air pockets and heating components that inflate and warm in areas that help recreate the sensation of a hug. However, the virtual sensation of touch may be more subtle. Professor Cheok also helped design the RingU, described as the first ‘tele-hug’ ring. The device aims to bring friends, partners or family members closer together by providing a subtle hugging sensation on the finger. Through the internet, the user may send a signal to their companion’s RingU. The receiving ring then squeezes, providing a simple, effective message that the person is thinking of them. Users of the RingU may also change the intensity of the sensation and the colour that the ring emits, depending on the emotion that they want to convey.

Professor Cheok believes people may move from the age of information into the “age of experience”. He believes that, as this technology develops, virtual communication may become a fully immersive physical experience – important in the future of online communication. His goal is to “go beyond the chemicals” and create a fully integrated, immersive virtual experience. Individuals may therefore socialise and communicate with all of their senses through the internet. Rather than receiving a descriptive text of a trip to the pub, individuals may one day virtually experience the atmosphere through online communication. The Scentee, RingU and taste technology all mark the beginning of this complete, physical digitalisation of the senses. Professor Cheok and his colleagues are fast developing the technology to find novel ways to bring telepresence to the public.

How else might telepresent technology help bring people closer together?

http://thepositive.com/creating-the-sense-of-bonding/

Groundbreaking gadgets aim to provide a feast for the senses

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Academic behind smartphone device that emits smell of bacon underlines further plans to transmit taste and smell electronically


The Guardian

Australian scientist Adrian Cheok uses one of his devices, which aim to move technology beyond mere information. Photograph: Sophie Gost
Australian scientist Adrian Cheok uses one of his devices, which aim to move technology beyond mere information. Photograph: Sophie Gost

 

A recent competition run by an American bacon manufacturer to win an iPhone-connecting device that emits the smell of rashers with the wake-up alarm could be viewed as a cruel trick on the senses. But it proved popular with thousands of entrants and marked a breakthrough for the London-based academic behind the technology.

Adrian Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University London, designed the gadget, which attached to the iPhone via its headphone jack and released a puff of bacon-scented mist, as well as the sound of frying, in a promotion for the Oscar Mayer meat company dubbed Wake Up and Smell the Bacon.

Cheok’s device may have been harnessed to an advertising gimmick, but the Australian scientist has an ambitious plan: to transmit taste and smell electronically so that when someone looks at a picture of a rose on a phone they are able to smell it, or experience the aroma of a Spanish paella when looking at snaps from their holiday on the Costa Brava.

Cheok’s technology is also behind a device available in Japan called Scentee, which is a small balloon-shaped smartphone attachment that emits a smell when programmed to do so.

The £12 device has a motor that vibrates and emits a mist containing the concentrated fluid essence of rose, coffee, lavender or rosemary, among others. It can be programmed to give out a hazy floral puff when someone’s partner contacts them. Smells are contained in separate attachments, which are sold individually and contain between 200 and 300 bursts.

This first step to bringing more senses to the digital world follows a career in which 42-year-old Cheok has worked on augmented reality systems, where computers enhance a user’s experience.

One of his creations was a virtual reality Pac-Man challenge, where the user would put on a specially designed suit and headset to roam the streets looking for “cookies”.

Cheok said: “In the real world we don’t just sense the world with our eyes, we have five senses.

“So with virtual reality, we can see a virtual rose on the table but we can’t touch it, we can’t pick it up, we can’t smell it, we can’t taste it. That is when I started to think that we needed to develop a new type of augmented reality for all of the five senses.”

During early experiments he worked with elderly people, developing applications to avoid loneliness so that relatives could cook together via the internet while separated.

Cooking utensils were augmented to include haptic technology – devices that recreate the sense of touch. This allowed users to “feel” when they were doing their tasks and used 3D food printers to replicate meals.

“Right now when we think about computing, we don’t think that we can have taste and smell experiences. But actually taste and smell are the only two senses which are connected to the limbic system of the brain, which is also responsible for the emotion and memory,” said Cheok.

“It is actually true that a smell can subconsciously change your mood, so they are very important senses that you can bring to the internet, especially when you are talking about emotional communication [between] for example the elderly and grandchildren,” he added.

The main problem with transmitting taste and smell was clear. While light and sound can be digitised, taste and smell are chemically based and “you can’t send chemicals through wires,” he said.

The initial development was the Scentee, which was launched in Japan and emits only single smells. This is just a first step, however, and other more ambitious projects are in progress.

A prototype device has been made that stimulates sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes when the prongs are pressed on a person’s tongue.

Low-level electrical currents stimulate the taste neuron, which produces artificial taste sensations.

Cheok is also working with neuroscientists to make a magnetic coil to go in the back of the mouth to indirectly stimulate the olfactory bulb, a key part of the brain responsible for smell. Using a device like a mouthguard, he said, this could produce artificial smell perception in the brain.

“Once you have digitised this signal, you can transmit through the internet. You can transmit to your mobile phone. It becomes a signal which does not require the transmission of chemicals,” he said.

“My research goal is to go beyond the chemicals. We want to make versions of this where you don’t need this digital device so you basically just have the electronics and then the electronics could be just embedded into your mobile phone or the back of your mouth and then making infinite kinds of smell combinations once you can control the signals.”

The advent of wearable technologies that interact with the body, such as health monitoring devices, will result in people accepting such devices in coming years, he said.

“[Now] you still can’t feel the experience of what it is like to be in this place in London or if we share a meal together or go to the pub together.

“In the future we will be able to communicate our experience – not just communicate information but experience.

“I believe we will go from the information age, which is where we are now, to the age of experience.”

Also in development is a ring to be worn on the finger, which, using haptic (tactile) technologies, can be squeezed to send a sensation to a corresponding ring – effectively creating a greeting between partners.

“Once we make these devices, the virtual world will become almost as physical as our reality,” said Cheok.

Scent messages

While Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant is known for implanting an iPod into shells so that diners can hear the sound of the sea during one of their fish courses, Spain’s Mugaritz – also ranked among the best eateries in the world – went one step further. The head chef, Andoni Luis Aduriz, used a Scentee to simulate one of his dishes so that when someone virtually crushes herbs and spices using his restaurant’s smartphone app, aromas of black pepper, sesame and saffron are emitted from the device.

 

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http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/28/groundbreaking-gadgets-feast-for-senses

Digitising Smell: The Third Sense Is Coming to Your Phone

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By  / September 11, 2014 10:34 AM EDT

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In an interview recorded to mark his birthday, Mel Brooks’ celebrated comic character The 2000 Year Old Man addressed what he considered to be the most worrying development in the modern world. His major concern was not, he explained, related to matters such as world peace or the erosion of individual liberty. “It’s something much more important than that,” he said. “Smell. They are taking our smells away; all of our own individual smells. They have a smell for everything today. Under the arms. Up the nose. In the crotch.” The consequence, he complained, was that “You don’t know who the hell you’re dealing with any more. You can’t tell the difference between men and women. You can’t tell who’s who. And that,” he concluded, “is no way to live”.

The 2000 Year Old Man was not noted for his insight or perception: he recalled having snubbed such figures as Moses and Jesus (“a thin lad who came into the store but never bought anything”) opting instead to worship “this guy called Phil”. His fears over the pervasiveness of artificial scent, however, are proving to have been a rare moment of prescience. To most of us, who have long taken for granted the computerised broadcasting of sound and vision, the idea of transmitting smells digitally still seems absurd. So much so that, when I informed friends that I had just taken delivery of a Scentee – a small device which enables its owner to send or receive aromas telephonically – they assumed it to be a joke.

The Scentee may not look like much. A miniature plastic globe, or dongle, it is a little smaller than a cherry tomato, and connects to the audio socket of a smartphone. Download the relevant app, and the device can be activated either independently, by the user, or remotely, when another Scentee owner gives it a call. The dongle glows blue and emits, in a delicate flourish that resembles the vapour from an e-cigarette, the fragrance from whichever chemical cartridge has been loaded into it. Available scents include bacon, short ribs, coffee and buttered potato.

The device was manufactured in Japan, inspired by the research work of Adrian David Cheok. The award-winning scientist, formerly head of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab, now has the title Professor of Pervasive Computing at London’s City University.

The Scentee is still a novelty in Britain; during a demonstration given in June, at the Natural History Museum, many children in the audience argued, with some urgency, that sales would increase considerably should the professor seek to develop a broader range of fragrances, such as camel fart.

The Scent Scientist

Cheok, 42, meets me at his HQ, a small laboratory at City University. An engaging and articulate man, dressed all in black, he looks more like a seasoned rock guitarist than a research scientist. He is accompanied by two of his PhD students, German-born Marius Braun, and Jordan Tewell, from Ohio. “I was especially impressed,” I tell Cheok, “when I dialled up the mashed potatoes.” (Hearing myself say this, I can’t help thinking the professor that, over the years, I have interviewed one man who has walked on the moon, and another who ate an entire Cessna light aircraft in Venezuela, and still this conversation feels as surreal as any I’ve had). “But what,” I ask him, “is the point of this technology? Is anybody actually using the Scentee?”

“Absolutely they are. Previously I was based at Keio University, in Tokyo. We were doing a big project on food media. I was collaborating with a friend, Koku Tsubouchi, who is an entrepreneur. We, the academics, maintained our focus on research, while his company developed a commercial product,” which, he says, became the first mobile device for producing smell. “Scentee,” he adds, “is a profitable company. They sell thousands of units a month in Japan.”

Cheok grew up in Adelaide, where he was born to a Malaysian father and Greek mother. He began his academic life in Australia as an electrical engineer, though it’s difficult to imagine him having considered devoting his life to so narrow and orthodox a discipline. You sense in him an unusual confluence of rigour, creative imagination, and just a little mischief. “I can see that this thing is fun,” I tell him. “But is it ever going to be more than a gimmick?”

Marius Braun plays a video that was filmed in the Mugaritz restaurant, close to the Basque city of San Sebastián. Andoni Luis Aduriz, head chef at Mugaritz (currently ranked sixth in the world by the British magazine Restaurant) has been collaborating with the inventors of the Scentee. He is famous for shocking and surprising his clientele. Diners are given no advance warning of the menu, whose 20 dishes seek to excite every sense, as well as stimulating emotion and memory.

The video from the Mugaritz shows customers embarking on the traditional first course, which requires each of them to prepare a broth by crushing herbs and spices in a mortar. Armed with a smartphone loaded with the Scentee app, a prospective visitor can simulate the grinding action by rotating the phone’s display, where an image of the bowl appears. As the ingredients appear to disintegrate, the Scentee emits aromas of black pepper, sesame and saffron. “The idea,” says Cheok, “is that you can virtually experience some of the food in the restaurant.”

The professor has also collaborated with the Kraft-owned meat brand Oscar Mayer to produce a bacon-scented alarm clock. Possibly sensing that this innovation may defy the traditional dynamic whereby an invention is created to meet a need, Oscar Mayer has produced an ambitious promotional video, a copy of which is in the lab. We look on as a young woman navigates a landscape of dry ice, dodging a hail of bacon rashers. Wearing a diaphanous low-cut gown which seems recklessly unsuited to these inclement surroundings, she caresses her torso with one hand, and brandishes a spatula in the other.

“At darkest midnight,” says a male narrator, against a sequence of erotic images that Ken Russell might have rejected as less than subtle, “the nostril’s north star awakes you.” The film ends with the woman waking to a working Scentee and the slogan: “Want your own bacon scent alarm?”

To which most of us would answer, “Probably not.” After all, the Teasmade – hugely popular in the 1970s – has all but died out and that, at least, had tea in it. It is, however, undeniably reassuring to learn that, should any of us find ourselves overpowered by the desire to own a bacon alarm, through Scentee we can at least get our hands on one.

Adrian Cheok at City University has been covering mixed reality, human-computer interfaces and wearable computers throughout his career. Adrian Cheok/Alamy
Adrian Cheok at City University has been covering mixed reality, human-computer interfaces and wearable computers throughout his career. Adrian Cheok/Alamy

If his hardware for the replication of smell is relatively sophisticated, Cheok’s prototype apparatus for simulating taste is somewhat more basic, not to say alarming. Marius Braun hands me a device that consists of a pair of metal prongs that are spring-loaded and look rather like a large clothes peg. The gadget is attached to a piece of circuit board and battery leads. “It’s only 40 milliamps,” Braun tells me, as he eases the prongs apart and invites me to place my tongue between them.

Sitting at a table, mouth open, wired up to the apparatus and waiting for the young German to press the switch, I’m reminded of a Bob Hope line from the 1940 comedy, Road to Singapore: “My mother told me there would be moments like these. How did she know?” The electrical current on the tip of my tongue produces a sharp taste, like lemon. Cheok says that the team are experimenting using different combinations of heat and amperage. They can replicate four of the five known tastes: sour, salty, bitter and sweet. (The fifth, umami, a savoury note akin to MSG, was officially discovered in 1908.)

Brave New Smells

Cheok began his career in computing at Mitsubishi Research labs in Japan. Subsequently, at the Singapore Mixed Reality Laboratory, he led a team of 100 researchers and students and produced highly-acclaimed work that placed recordings of three-dimensional human figures into mixed-reality landscapes: the results have been compared to the hologram effects employed by Star Wars director, George Lucas.

The professor’s work in transmitting touch via the internet currently takes the form of a plastic ring slipped over the finger. The prototype is impressively small, even if it couldn’t yet be mistaken for a desirable accessory. It vibrates whenever the wearer of an identical ring presses their own device. They could be in the next room or, wireless connections permitting, in Martinique. It’s a signalling mechanism that has obvious potential for connecting with lost children or, as the research team tell me, with residents in care homes whose other senses may be impaired. The ring represents the first stage of Cheok’s ambition to create a device which, as he puts it, “will allow people to give each other a virtual hug”.

The notion of being able to blend and disseminate smell and taste is not a new one. As early as 1884, the French writer J K Huysmans published his novel À Rebours (Against Nature) in which the main character owned a “mouth organ”, consisting of a keyboard connected to tubes leading to casks of liqueurs, enabling the player to compose, and consume, a kind of alcoholic symphony. Hotel rooms in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are equipped with a scent organ. Replicating such devices in the real world proved to be somewhat challenging.

In the 1930s, an American-Swiss scientist called Hans Laube developed a system for releasing fragrance into cinema auditoriums. Variations on his system, the first attempt at what is generally termed Smell-o-Vision, were tested in the late 1950s. Its most famous incarnation was in Michael Todd Jr’s 1960 cinema production Scent of Mystery, starring Peter Lorre and Elizabeth ­Taylor.

Laube’s invention, intended to have a humble supporting role at the movie’s premier, immediately occupied centre stage. Poor ventilation exposed patrons to a combination of odours including rose, seaweed, wine, peppermint, shoe polish and cordite. It proved too heady a cocktail for some guests, who were overcome by panic and nausea.

“This all-out attack on the sense of smell,” complained the New York Times, “assaults the nose as a mixture of paint thinner and dimestore perfume, and leaves a sweet, cloying scent reminiscent of an undertaker’s parlour.”

The history of what is usually referred to as digital scent technology is less than 20 years old. In 1999, a firm called DigiScents unveiled a device that allowed users to trigger a limited range of smells when they opened an email. Other companies, in Tokyo, San Diego and Tel Aviv, are reported to be close to achieving commercially viable smell technology in a form that can be incorporated into a surround sound system.

The Smellophone

In June, the Parisian design centre Le Laboratoire, founded and directed by Harvard’s Professor of the Practice of Idea Translation, David A Edwards, announced the imminent release of its oPhone DUO. Le Laboratoire claims that the system will ultimately be able to release 300,000 unique aromas. This device is essentially a sophisticated smell modem, with the capacity to blend multiple odours. While far more complex than the Scentee, which can only deliver one smell at a time, the Duo looks less like a mobile phone than something we might see on a dental hygienist’s tray, and will not be available until the spring of 2015.

The Scentee 'balloon', attached to the earphone jack of your smartphone, sprays the aroma of choice. Aire-freshener-like cartridges include scents of rosemary, lavender and coffee. Phil Sills for Newsweek
The Scentee ‘balloon’, attached to the earphone jack of your smartphone, sprays the aroma of choice. Aire-freshener-like cartridges include scents of rosemary, lavender and coffee. Phil Sills for Newsweek

I ask Edwards the question that recurs whenever the subject of computerised smell comes up: what’s the point? “We see several exciting areas of application,” he says. One of these ­concerns: “companies operating in an environment with a strong aromatic value.”

“Waste disposal?”

“People marketing coffee, or flowers,” Edwards explains. “If I am in a nice coffee shop in New York, I have the ability, while standing in line, to smell the notes of a coffee.”

This facility, he argues, can be of great assistance in “dialoguing with the barista”. That last phase might sound alien to some members of British café society, whose concept of barista dialoguing has yet to advance beyond such phrases as: “Milk and sugar?”

“There is so much that people can do with this,” Edwards says. “Smell is the ultimate tweet. Your nose is made for it. One of our investors is a big lover of dogs. They make films for your dog when you are away. So you can leave your dog watching a bird movie, say, but at the moment he can’t smell anything. Now we have the opportunity to communicate using smell across species.” Given the not-insignificant gulf between the aromatic preferences of the human and the dog – the one tends to favour rose, patchouli or vetiver, while the other has a penchant for fox excretia – I find myself hoping that this particular branch of the information super-highway will remain a one-way street.

Guests at a recent demonstration of the oPhone at Los Angeles’ Institute for Art and Olfaction agreed that the device is, as the Institute’s founder and executive director, Saskia Wilson-Brown puts it, “definitely functional. David took a picture of a Perrier can on the phone, assigned four scents to it using his app, and sent the ‘oNote’ to the machine, which released the scents over the course of about a minute. They were definitely perceptible.”

The Great Nose

The inconvenient truth about taste and smell is that they don’t operate quite like the other senses. The sensation of smell is produced by the stimulation of the olfactory bulb, a structure located in the forebrain.

“The thing about scent,” Cheok says, showing me a diagram of the skull, “is that our basic receptors are not working as they usually do. Eyes and ears measure frequency. Smell is more analogous to a sensor. With sound you can cut out 80% of the data and it will still sound OK. With smell, it has to be exactly right. Taste offers a similar challenge.”

The professor’s mission “is to merge the virtual world with the senses. The internet is ­rapidly moving from behind our desktop into the physical world of taste and touch, as well as smell.”

I took my Scentee down to James ­Craven, chief archivist for Les Senteurs, the specialist perfumiers in central London. Acknowledged as one of the great “noses” in the fragrance world, Craven is more accustomed to advising clients on the sophisticated notes in the products of master perfumiers such as Olivier Creed, widely regarded as the most distinguished living creator of scents. The House of Creed was established in 1760, since when its scents have been worn by figures including Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, Michael Jackson, Prince Charles, Michelle Obama and both Elvises – Presley and Costello. (“I remember very clearly the first time I ever wore Creed,” Costello told me. “Because I had never previously had strangers coming up to me in the street and saying, ‘You smell tremendous’.”)

Craven looks a little uneasy as I load my dongle with Chinese short ribs. Asking this man to assess the Scentee is a bit like recruiting a Formula One champion to test-drive a milk float. He stands gamely in the line of fire. “OK,” he says, with a much higher intonation on the second syllable, as the first jet of fragrance strikes what the Oscar Mayer people would call the north star of his nostril. “That is definitely  . . . meat.”

“I own this equipment,” I tell him. “Are you envious?”

“Not to the point that is unmanageable,” he replies. “As it is designed at the moment, this looks more like a kind of a toy to me. At the same time I’m sure that this is something that can be refined and developed. I think the basic idea is very exciting.”

Etat Libre d'Orange's Fat Electrician is a man 'raised in the big air of Texas, his soft skin scrubbed by ears of wheat'. Etat Libre d'Orange
Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fat Electrician is a man ‘raised in the big air of Texas, his soft skin scrubbed by ears of wheat’. Etat Libre d’Orange

 

The only complex fragrance I have any knowledge about is Creed, mainly as a result of having met the parfumier on a few occasions.

“The psychological effect of these fine scents is on the wearer,” I suggest. “You definitely feel more confident when wearing, say, Creed’s Royal Water. [As well you might, at £180 a bottle.] It can feel, as one fragrance expert said to me, ‘like wearing armour’.”

“I have no doubt of that,” says Craven. “Some are aphrodisiac, some are relaxing. Some put you in a brisk frame of mind.”

Les Senteurs keeps a range of fragrances which include one called Sécrétions Magnifiques. “I’d be a bit wary,” Craven says, as he puts a sample on a testing strip. “There is an accord of sweat and blood in this,” he says. (And, according to Sécrétions Magnifiques’ distributors, a firm called Etat Libre d’Orange, “notes of sperm and saliva”.) “That smell,” I tell him, “really is feral.”

“But many do love it,” Craven says, as he uncorks an equally bracing scent with the name Fat Electrician.

Another London-based perfume expert, Michael Donovan, gave me a Gaultieri fragrance called “Narcotic Venus”. This is based on tuberose: a flower that single women, historically, were not allowed to pick in its native Mexico, for fear that its supposed erotic properties might have them ravished in the fields. Narcotic Venus, Donovan told me, is “not one to wear to the office”.

But it is a blushing virgin compared to “Complex,” a perfume by Englishman Michael Boadi. “Complex is so pungent and strong,” Donovan says, “that it feels as if your head is about to explode. To me it smells as though two people have been in a hotel bedroom for two days, in sweat-soaked sheets, and not gone out or opened the windows.” It’s a description that once it is in mind it’s difficult to shift, though the scent of Complex is perversely hypnotic.

“Does it sell?”

“By the bucket load.”

“Who to?”

“Mainly women.”

Piss and Biscuit

But is it possible that smell – whether naturally produced, or chemically simulated, as in the Scentee – really does have a psychological effect on the wearer; something that may lie beyond their ability to control? I consulted New-York-based author Avery Gilbert, a fragrance expert who is also a psychologist trained in neuroscience. Gilbert’s 2008 book What The Nose Knows: The Science of Smell in Everyday Life is a wonderful social history of scent, elegantly written to the point that it captivates people with no previous interest in the subject.

“In terms of neuroanatomy,” Gilbert says, “other sensory systems, sight and touch for example, go through the thalamus, in the brain structure – at which point we become consciously aware of what’s happening. Smell bypasses the thalamus. Researchers have observed the brain responding to scent at levels that are too low for the test subject to detect. There’s little doubt that odours can be registered subconsciously.”

“I think that putting on a really memorable perfume” I suggest to Gilbert, “can alter your mood in the same way that you might drive differently, depending on whether you’re listening to some ­dismal Bach fugue, or to ZZ Top. The difference with smell is that you could be – for marketing reasons – exposed to the equivalent of ZZ Top without knowing it.”

“That’s a useful analogy,” the ­academic replies. “I have definitely noticed that effect on my own driving, depending on whether I want to relax, or I crank the music up. A number of my passengers have remarked on it.”

“There’s a piece by the British poet John Cooper Clarke,” I tell him, called ‘Things are Going to Get Worse’. It contains the lines: ‘Things are going to get worse, nurse / I ain’t optimistic / I’ve got a mouth shaped like a purse, nurse / And a bungalow smelling of piss and biscuit’. Those final three words might not make an ideal title for a fragrance – not unless it was aimed at the Labrador retriever market – but such an aroma could, presumably, be replicated in the laboratory?”

“Absolutely. The only question would be whether you wanted wine urine or vodka urine. You – coming, as I recall, from Manchester – might prefer the full-on stench of a soccer ground urinal, though I did hear that smell has diminished recently, because a lot of supporters have taken to relieving themselves in the parking lot.” After that, Gilbert suggests, it would just be a question of whether you wanted to add a hint of HobNob or Penguin biscuits.

Even today, there is still some debate as to the way that smell operates. The writer and biophysicist Luca Turin takes issue with the orthodox position (namely that the shape of molecules dictates their effect on nasal receptors) and believes that vibrational qualities of particles determine smell.

Turin, with his wife Tania Sanchez, produced an entertaining 2008 best­seller: Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. A charismatic polymath, he remains somewhat isolated in the world of perfume scientists. What’s really curious about Luca Turin is that, for a man stubbornly wedded to scientific process in his research, he writes about scent with the kind of audacious cross-cultural comparisons that used to give French wine critics a bad name.

Turin describes Guérlain’s Mitsouko (established in 1919 and still going strong) as “pure Brahms, the string sextets, intricate but rather monochrome”. “‘Tommy Girl’ (Tommy Hilfiger) on the other hand, “gives you Prokofiev’s first symphony”. Of Black, by Bulgari: “At different times, it will strike you as a battle hymn for Amazons, emerald green plush fit for Napoleon’s box at the Opera, or plain sweet and smiling.” Turin is very rude about Olivier Creed, and once suggested that he might have been on the sauce when he devised one of his great fragrances, Virgin Island Water.

However a smell reaches the brain, what’s undeniable is that exposure to it can be profoundly connected to memory. If I can strike a personal note, were a woman to approach me wearing a ­fragrance that combined Mitsouko with notes of Paris Métro air, Pouilly Fumé and a hint of Benson and Hedges – a creation I like to call “Sorcière#101” – I would have no doubt that she was ­trouble.

Smell: The Final Frontier

The emotional impact of half-forgotten smells is all the greater because they frequently arrive without warning, and represent stimuli over which we have little or no control.

We are regularly, often unwittingly, exposed to scent when we visit many large retailers. The practice goes far beyond what you may have noticed – food stores pumping out, for instance, the smell of baking bread, chocolate or coffee beans. One well-known shirt retailer infuses its outlets with the smell of fresh laundry. Experiments have indicated that such subliminal techniques are highly effective.

Cheok emphasises that his goal is “not just to pump smells into a store, but to stream them online”. That said, Gilbert tells me, the digitisation of scent makes it far easier to manipulate in public areas.

Efficient Smell-o-Vision is now an achievable reality; the magician David Copperfield has successfully used such effects in his Las Vegas shows. One 1999 study conducted at a casino in that city indicated that fragrances can increase the average spend by 45%. Every major Las Vegas operator now manipulates odour, most to highly sophisticated ­levels.

Is Cheok correct, I asked Gilbert, when he says that the line between biology and digital hardware is starting to blur? “Absolutely he is,” Gilbert tells me. “I am currently advising a silicon valley start-up company called Aeromyx. What they have is a biochip which will allow them to anchor all 400 of the human olfactory receptor proteins. It scans the 400 receptors, and records which has been activated and to what extent. That gives you a digital signal of a smell based on the biological receptors in the human nose. And that is completely crossing the line.”

“So,” I ask him, “how do you feel about the Scentee?”

“This one,” Gilbert replies, “has ­puzzled me. I am a big fan of olfactory technology of all sorts, but this device, given that the smells are loaded one at a time, does seem a trifle cludgy in its current form.”

Where the Scentee is concerned, ­Gilbert continues, “I do admire the vision and the technology. And I am extremely interested in the idea of using the senses for information signalling. For ­example,” he says, expanding on the idea that I’d heard Cheok’s team outline in London, “if you had people in an assisted-living home and you needed to remind them that it was dinner time, this could be achieved very effectively by smell. Scent might also be a useful way of alerting you to processes that are building gradually. As you become increasingly tense, for instance, smell could be calibrated to intensify, as a signal to tell you that your heart rate was increasing and remind you that it was time to take a deep breath, and relax.”

Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man was right: in the future, smell is the sense most likely to preoccupy us, in ­combination with digital technology. “All of the means of delivery are there,” Gilbert says. “It is simply a matter of finding the right application. People are now thinking about architecture that is sensitive to the people who are inside it. Buildings could potentially be designed so as to sense, for example, heart rate. They could have an olfactostat; a thermostat for smells.”

“Have you been surprised,” I ask Cheok, “by the speed with which your research has progressed in order to produce something like the Scentee, or do you feel frustrated that things haven’t moved faster?”

“Both,” he replies. “I have big visions and I am aware that these things necessarily take time. This is not like working in a bank. When you are trying to take quantum leaps, there are bound to be failures. But I think that ultimately, with rigour and perseverance, an ambitious approach leads to the most important research.”

Is it actually possible, I ask Gilbert, that we are on the brink of a new age, with regard to digital transmission of scent? Are we going to be surprised at what is achievable in the next 25 years?

“We will be surprised,” he replies, “much sooner than that. Now that we have wirelessly-controlled scent devices, we’re just looking for the applications. When somebody produces the right combination of technology and smell, the resulting product will be very, very big.”

Globally, Cheok concedes, there are many teams of scientists endeavouring to digitise the sensual world. Many of his competitors, in Tokyo, Harvard and Paris, enjoy facilities far more lavishly equipped than his own. But to anyone who has met the small man from Adelaide, it would come as no surprise were it to be a modest laboratory in the City of London that celebrated that first, exhilarating moment of illumination.

http://www.newsweek.com/2014/09/19/digitising-humanity-about-take-another-huge-step-forward-smell-269729.html

Festival of the Mind – Keynote Talk: Together In Electric Dreams – Adults Only Lecture Will Explore “Digital Intimacy”

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FOTM

  • “Multi-sensory” communication will enable physical contact with people online
  • New technologies will allow us to send physical sensations such as taste, touch and smell through the internet

Text messages signed off with a “x” will soon be replaced by the sensation of the real thing and it will soon be possible to hug someone on the other side of the world through the development of “telepresence” technologies which will blend the virtual and the physical and may even result in sexual and emotional relationships between humans and robots, according to a talk Adrian Cheok will give as part of the University of Sheffield’s X Lecture series this September.

Speaking at the X Lectures on Sunday September 21, Professor Adrian Cheok of City University London will explain how we will soon experience taste, touch and smell through the internet and how “telepresence” technologies will allow us to physically interact with people anywhere in the world.

The adult-only lecture series, the X Lectures, are part of the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind. The 11-day long Festival of the Mind (18th- 28th September 2014) will see the University of Sheffield team its leading academics with the UK’s most famous artists and musicians in order to bring academia to the streets. The X Lectures will focus on themes of reproduction in animals and in humans. Four experts in different areas will give lectures including Professor Tim Birkhead, Professor Mike Siva Jothy, and Dr Allan Pacey all from the University of Sheffield and Adrian Cheok from City University, London.

In his X Lecture, Adrian Cheok will explain how we have long been able to reproduce audio-visual information using computers, but soon all five senses will be stimulated through multi-sensory communication technologies, meaning the information superhighway will become the experiential superhighway as we move from mere information into fully immersive physical experiences.

Professor Adrian Cheok, City University London, said: “Non-verbal communication plays a huge role in our face-to-face interactions but we haven’t yet been able to replicate this experience through technology. We now believe that we are on the verge of developing new ways combining physical and digital information, changing the nature of online communication forever.”

Adrian Cheok is chair Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London. He is the founder and director of the Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore. His areas of research include mixed reality, human-computer interfaces, wearable computers and ubiquitous computing.

Adrian Cheok’s X Lecture will take place at 8pm on Sunday September 21 at the Festival of the Mind’s Spiegeltent in Barker’s Pool, Sheffield.

spiegeltent600

Festival of the Mind

Festival of the Mind will showcase ground-breaking collaborations between leading academics from the University of Sheffield and local people in the creative and cultural industries, at venues across the city.

Events take place between 18–28 September 2014. For further information and the full programme, visit: http://festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk/

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