"Imagine you are online and want to know what a particular brand of coffee would smell like," David Edwards said. "Or, you are in an actual long line waiting to order. You just tap on the oNote and get the experience."
Working with collaborators at a laboratory in Paris, Edwards, a Michigan Technological University alumnus, developed the oNotes that can be sent via email, tweet or text.
The secret is in accurate scent reproduction, the researchers said, locked in chips plugged into the oPhone. Odors are first captured in wax after they are perfected by an aroma expert who deconstructs the scents.
"We create unique aromatic profiles," said Blake Armstrong of Vapor Communications, an organization operating out of Le Laboratorie in Paris. "We put that into the oChip that faithfully renders that smell."
The result for an oNote recipient will be a pure cloud of scent close to the device, about 6 inches in diameter, which is released and then dissipates.
Many business sectors could benefit from such technology, Edwards said.
"Fragrance houses, of course, culinary, travel, but also healthcare," he said.
The researchers say they're planning for an end-of-year Beta release of the scent-transmitting phone to a limited audience.