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1st 'Scent Message' to Be Beamed from NYC to Paris Tomorrow

The oPhone, the first delivery system designed for scent-based mobile messaging, available for pre-sale via a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo from June 17. (Image credit: Vapor Communications)

NEW YORK — Tomorrow morning (June 17), the first-ever transatlantic "scent message" will be transmitted from New York City to Paris.

At the American Museum of Natural History here in Manhattan, Harvard professor David Edwards and his co-inventor Rachel Field will electronically send an image tagged with a scent to Le Laboratoire, a contemporary art and design center in Paris. There, a new device — called an oPhone — will decode the message and reproduce the scent using its aromatic cartridges.

In response, Christophe Laudamiel, a fragrance chemist in Paris, will send a Parisian scent back to the museum. [Hold Your Nose: 7 Foul Flowers]

The scent messages, called oNotes, add a new dimension to telecommunication. The possibilities for the technology are vast: Scent messages could be aromatic pictures of a cup of coffee, olfactory tweets from a wine tasting, or scented sounds from a family dinner party, just to name a few examples.

"One day fairly soon, any user of a mobile phone, anywhere, will not only be able to receive a scent message — invoking a memory, a culinary pleasure or peace of mind — but quickly send another back, similar to how we exchange audio information today with friends around the world," Edwards, who is also the CEO of Vapor Communications, the company behind the scent messaging platform, said in a statement.

But so far, oNotes are limited to scent-tagged images composed in oSnap, a free mobile messaging app for iPhone devices, which will be launched tomorrow. Using oSnap, users can mix and match from the oPhone's 32 primitive aroma chips to produce more than 300,000 unique scents, company representatives said.

oNotes are transmitted via text, tweet or email, to be picked up at hotspots where there are oPhones in place to receive them. The American Museum of Natural History will provide a hotspot during three weekends in July, along with hands-on activities about how humans process smell.

oPhones will cost $149 for those who preorder the machines via the company's Indiegogo campaign, which will start on June 17. Next year, the oPhone devices will retail for $199 when they become more widely available on the market. 

Email Bahar Gholipour. Follow us @LiveScience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Bahar Gholipour is a staff reporter for Live Science covering neuroscience, odd medical cases and all things health. She holds a Master of Science degree in neuroscience from the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, and has done graduate-level work in science journalism at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has worked as a research assistant at the Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives at ENS.