Researchers from Keio University in Tokyo have created glasses designed to augment the wearer’s experience by providing additional audio and olfactory stimuli during social encounters. Fitted with speakers and scent emitters, the spectacles emit sound and smell signals unique to the person you meet. This eyewear is clearly more than just a fashion accessory. Rather, in the words of its makers, it is an attempt to encourage face-to-face communication with emotional and memorable sound and smell experiences.
The glasses communicate with your smartphone via Bluetooth. Once the infrared sensors on the glasses detect somebody else wearing a pair of Sound Perfume goggles nearby, a message containing your name, contact number and your unique sound and smell signatures is sent to that person. In response, the recipient’s phone communicates with his or her glasses, which in turn emit your signature sound and odor.
The system can also be paired with a mobile phone’s camera to save not only the location and time an image was taken, but also the sound and smell information of the person in the photo. So when viewing the photo later or walking past the location, the sound and smell of the person you shared the experience with is triggered. What is the point of all that? The additional stimulation is to assist in building a fond multi-sensory memory of your encounter.
A small scent emitter located behind the ears contains eight kinds of solid state perfume. Once a selected piece is heated to 46°C (115°F) with a wire, the right smell is released. A test performed on 52 people by a group of researchers from the National University of Singapore showed that Sound Perfume helped people make a positive impression on first encounter. The researchers, lead by Yongsoon Choi, presented the findings last month at the Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
Their appearance alone means the chances of the Sound Perfume glasses going mainstream anytime soon are rather slim. However, the concept of employing a wider-than-usual set of senses to generate emotional response is already being developed commercially and merits some attention. Take, for example, the Smell-o-Vision device designed to sit at the back of your TV set ready to emit ten thousand different smells to go in unison with whatever you are currently watching. The Project Sense concept goes even further, promising a “more emotional connection between users and experiences” thanks to a device providing haptic, thermal and olfactory sensations for gamers, movie watchers and online shoppers.
While using music to make face-to-face encounters more pleasurable is well documented, using artificially generated smells for eliciting an emotional response is not yet a common practice. Despite the already mentioned attempts at commercializing the idea, the area of social olfaction remains an almost untouched scientific ground. A serious investigation is called for, especially in the light of recent findings published in the Nature Communications journal.
A group of researchers associated with the Spanish Natural Science Museum found that the sense of smell may have been much more important in the history of our species than previously believed. So much so, that it may have played a vital role in giving us an evolutionary advantage over other related species, such as Neanderthals.
Until recently, it has been commonly believed that our olfactory capabilities were gradually dampened in the course of evolution. However, new data seems to suggest the sense of smell in Homo sapiens is developed better than in earlier humans. Our olfactory abilities may have contributed to such factors as kinship recognition, better family relations, group cohesion and social learning. Each of these contributed to the fact that we are now the only surviving human species. A species that may not be fully aware of all the blessings it received from mother nature.
No matter how silly the Sound Perfume glasses concept may look at first glance, the people behind this project deserve some credit for trying to bring us a tiny step closer to a better understanding of ourselves. Do they succeed? Watch the video below and decide for yourselves.