A whiff of the future

A Paris-Cambridge based startup Vapor Communications, have invented a device that will now allow users to send smells via mobile messaging – and no it’s not a hoax.

On Tuesday March 17, 2014, the world’s first trans-Atlantic digitally scented messages was sent from Paris to New York. Aided by the new iPhone app called oSnap, a fragrance chemist in New York sent a champagne and chocolate smell-o-gram to inventors David Edwards, a Harvard professor, and Rachel Field, at the American Museum of Natural History.

The device “oPhone”, along with a free app called “oSnap” (available on iTunes), lets users take photos, add text, program an accompanying scent, then combines them to send the scent messages or the “oNote” as the company calls it.

How does it work?

The scent laced messages or the oNotes, are composed on the iPhone app – oSnap. The app has an automatic camera, which takes photos of the object they wish to send. Once the snap is taken, a tagging menu appears with an array of scent notes such as butter, cocoa beans, baguette or red wine for the user to choose from. Up to eight different scents can be combined to give the recipient the full picture of a meal or any other experience. The app facilitates the users to mix and match different scents from the 32 primitive scents to create more than 300,000 unique aromas to send via mobile message.

These 32 aromas are placed inside oPhone’s eight “oChips.” On receiving the oNote, the device releases the corresponding aroma via two cylindrical gadgets based on the aromatic tags assigned by the user. Each scent is designed to last roughly 10 seconds – the average time people take to sense an aroma. If the photo is tagged with multiple scents, the smells are emitted one after the other. The photo and its corresponding scent tags are then messaged to the recipient, who uses a scent-transmitting machine, the oPhone to receive the smell.


Coming a long way from its ideation two years ago, the oPhone is available for pre-order for $149 to anyone who donates to the device’s ‘Indiegogo crowdfunding’ campaign. The oPhone will cost $199 (US) at the consumer launch, expected in April next year.

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