| Windows of Technology



Apps that can communicate touch, taste and smell: A taste of what’s to come in 2014


Creators of websites and applications more often than not term their creations as providing a rich and embellishing experience to the users. Though the design and overall look and feel, the captivating layouts and interactive nature of these creations may be called as a treat for the senses, the truth is that they are a treat only for eyes and ears and nothing more.

Coming out from mostly a glass panel and a speaker, online & digital media based entertainment has mostly to do with seeing and hearing. Thus it does not give the user a complete sense of a make-believe reality. Studies and experiments the world over has time and again proved that more than half of communication that humans are not verbal in nature. This has led to scientists increasingly trying to devise ways of being able to communicate through the other three senses namely taste, smell and touch.

The professor teaching pervasive computing at the City University of London, asked this question over an iPhone to a person standing on the other side of the room as to what does the person smell? The person at the other end replies back saying that the scent of melon is significant and it was coming out from a tiny instrument piece attached to the person’s iPhone and was actually triggered by the professor from the other end.

The professor agrees and tells that these instruments are selling more than 10000 units a month harbouring the era of bringing smell into the social communication platform. The technology itself is in the early part of its adoption curve though and the device that is responsible for the melon scent bears resemblance to an inkjet printer in that it contains a melon “smell sachet”. When the liquid in it responsible for the scent finishes you need to get another sachet as a replacement.

This is not something that is new technology though, since in 1999 there was a story running on the front cover of the famous wired magazine that talked about a company called Digiscents that had come up with a USB compatible personal scent synthesizer that worked on the computer called the iSmellDigiscents. When this technology was invented back then, it looked more of a marketing pitch but is contextual nowadays with all the smartphones with ultra-high processing power and superfast connection speed bringing in all sorts of possibilities on the forefront.

Professor Cheok, as he his famously known as, has got critical acclaim for his funny projects in the past like “hugging pyjamas” that can be worn as a suit and can be used to hug a person virtually and remotely. There are some other fun projects of his as well, like small haptic rings that can make someone else sense a squeeze on their ring if the other person squeezes theirs over the internet. This looks a lot like virtual handholding of sorts. Yet another project of his involves a device that consists of electrodes and triggers the taste receptors on tongue thus creating an artificial sense of taste in the brain.

There have also been certain advancements in mobile technology with respect to installation of apps on pc without android emulator for playing that favourite mobile game on your desktop PC. Some other projects along these lines are also being carried out in the National University of Singapore that are about creating a digital lollipop that makes the tongue artificially experience the taste of salt, sweet, bitter and sour things.

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