Smell-o-Vision Is Real: These "Speakers" Blast Scent, Not Sound

Smell-o-Vision Is Real: These "Speakers" Blast Scent, Not Sound
Source: Vimeo
Source: Vimeo

Finally, there's an air freshener that does more than make your room smell like ocean breeze.

Calling the Cyrano an air freshener seems woefully simple. It's a digital "scent speaker," something that can be programmed in advance with different scents to evoke different emotions. Program the Cyrano to play mint, pine, vanilla and peppermint, and boom, you're in a Christmas movie.

Source: Vimeo

Harvard University engineer David Edwards, who also invented delivery systems for inhalable insulin, inhalable chocolate and inhalable vitamins, made the mug-sized speaker to deliver smells. 

Source: Cyrano
Source: Cyrano

So far the list of scents reads more like a Bed Bath & Beyond candle menu. But maybe it will get more interesting. The smell of brine, bait and gasoline could send you on a mental fishing trip while you're stuck in traffic, for instance.

Utilizing smell to amplify an emotional response isn't a new thing. Smells, unlike sights and sounds, pass through the amygdala and hippocampus, parts of your brain used for memory. That's why familiar smells trigger memories and emotions.

In 1960, the film Scent of Mystery was paired with a scent-delivery system called Smell-o-Vision, which would emit strong scents — like the smell of peaches when a peach tree showed on the screen — throughout the theater. It failed, because the scents, apparently, stayed on your clothes and would combine with older smells. Scents from a car chase might mix with scents from a restaurant, and all of a sudden you have motor-oil curry wafting up your nostrils.

Cyrano is supposed to fix that by only giving off small scent signals, eliciting a feeling and then dissipating before the next smell arrives. Edwards even has an animated film that can be paired with the Cyrano, maybe showing Smell-o-Vision can work if it's done the right way. But until that happens, adding a scent speaker to your commute could just be a good way to relax.

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Max Plenke

Max Plenke is a staff writer at Mic, where he covers breaking news, climate science, health and the future. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ and Wallpaper. Send story tips to max@mic.com.

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