Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mobile Fragrances-Japan Nose how to communicate

I remember reading 5 years ago how 'smell' would revolutionise modern-day TV, and that future TV adverts would not only show you a video ad of a fragrant pizza about to be delivered, but also allow you to smell the delicious pepperoni & cheese warm topping. Looks like the vision was ahead not so much of the technology, but also of the consumer wants, and it all sadly fizzled out into (odourless) smoke.

So, it is with a jaded eye that I read about the same kind of thing coming to mobile, courtesy of NTT DoCoMo (whose eye must also be a bit jaded by their recent drop below 50% in market share in Japan for the first time since 1996).

MocoNews reports that NTT Communications announced yesterday that it’s running a ten-day trial starting April 10 of its new Mobile Fragrance Communication service (Kaori Tshshi Mobile), the mobile version of a service.

Users will be able to download a “Fragrance Playlist” or files of recipes for specific smells along with visual (GIF animation) and/or audio (MIDI) content from i-Mode’s mobile website. The service uses a handset’s infrared port to transfer the “fragrance data” to a dedicated device similar to a plug-in air freshener that is loaded with a cartridge of base fragrances. The device then mixes them to create the chosen smell, which it then wafts out, accompanying the audio or visual content that is played on the phone. People will be able to share their Fragrance Playlists with friends who subscribe to the service.

NTT is also testing a device controller--the Service Gateway--which allows users to remotely control their Mobile Fragrance Communication system through the internet using their mobile phone. For example, a user can send his or her phone to instruct the fragrance device begin operating before he or she gets home.

The company also said it was accepting applications from companies in Japan wishing to develop content and applications for a commercial version of the Mobile Fragrance Communication Service. NTT envisions for example, ringtones, music and horoscopes combined with fragrances.

In a society obsessed with getting a constant 'fix' of new and wacky experiences, it may well be that Mobile Fragrances go down a storm. I'll keep an eye out for any developments beyond Japan, as I am curious to see if society has moved on from the TV fragrances experiment and if anyone other than Ambi-Pur will show a genuine interest...