Want to smell the food in a picture? There’s an app for that

Mobile technology has produced some pretty remarkable tools. You can find phone applications that let you identify the song playing in a cafe, track your running patterns, assess the quality of your sleep, the list goes on and on. But ultimately, phones only allowed you to hear and see things. You can listen to music, hear the voice of your friend or open a photo attachment, but three senses remain untapped. However, thanks to a team of Harvard alumni, your phone will soon be able to cater to your sense of smell as well.

Introducing the oPhone
Dr. David Edwards, a biomedical engineer at Harvard and founder of Le Laboratoire, and his team invented a device called the oPhone. It essentially looks like a small platform with two towers protruding upward. The device works in-sync with the oSnap app for smartphones.The app and oPhone contain a menu of individual scents, such as chocolate or jasmine, that users can select. When you take a photo of your coffee, let’s say, you then choose a series of scents to describe the smell of your drink. Your coffee might have notes of cocoa, raspberry or almonds. When you select these scents and send them along with the photo, your friend can step over to his or her oPhone device. The two towers will produce the smell concoction for your friend to sniff after looking at the picture.

Changing the way we communicate
Makers of the device liken it to a social media network for smells. The oPhone isn’t limited to food and drink, as users can create a mix of scents that describe their perfume or candles too. Edwards hopes his invention will open people’s vocabularies, making them more attuned to their sense of smell and the way it affects them emotionally.

“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,” Edwards told CNN.

The oPhone is slated for its beta launch in July 2014. The first few devices will be shared with a select testing group before they’re released to the public. Initially, the oPhone will only carry 356 possible scents, but that will increase to thousands over the course of product testing and tweaking. Eventually, Edwards would like to have a limitless chip that allows users to pick just about any scent combination.

No matter how the public receives the oPhone, the device certainly does allow users to paint a veritable canvas of scents to describe their world to others. You may soon be able to send a photo and scent image of the dishes you create for your online baking courses.

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