By Margarita Nahapetyan
NTT Communications, the largest telephone company in Japan, has a proposition for the future of the internet: Fragrance Communication.
The company is now inviting hundreds of consumers in Japan to test its new i-Aroma service. Those individuals who will be chosen, will receive an aroma diffuser unit to plug into the USB port of their computer, after what NTT Com will send them smells across the internet.
The i-Aroma hardware kit is using 6 base oils that are mixed together and vaporized to create and release any one of a number of slightly different smells, all commanded over a USB connection to a PC. It is part of what NTT is referring to as a "fragrance communication system" and the whole idea implies that aromas, which are believed to have a strong psychological effect, can be remotely controlled to match a specific web experience.
A total of 360 lucky individuals will be able to try out two different "fragrance communication" services free of charge. The first service, which has been developed in collaboration with a professional astrologist, makes the i-Aroma device emit scents that match the dominant planets at any given time of the day, meaning that customers get different nasal stimuli in the morning, throughout the day and during the evening. The service number two was designed and developed by "aroma therapist." It makes sure that customers get to smell fragrances that match their lifestyle, which means it emits fragrances that are matched to the rhythm of everyday life, such as waking, working and going to sleep. NTT Communications even set up closed social networks particularly made for their i-Aroma users.
Non of theses services seems to sound particularly ground-breaking but apparently this appears to be a first-run test and in case it actually proves to work, then more practical applications will be developed, such as aromas on cooking websites as well as smells integrated into gaming environments.
The idea of providing the Internet with smelly experience has been around for many years. Scientists and entrepreneurs have been coming up with scented jokes since at least 2000, after a continuing attempts to bring a third sense to the web browsing experience. So now the experts say that the new service is basically a real version of the age-old jokes by TV personalities "smelly-vision."
Mainly targeting single women in their 30s, NTT Communications at this point tries to figure out a way to commercialize i-Aroma, too. Currently, only customers residing in Japan and owning Windows XP or Vista PCs can sign up for the testing.
The company already offers a service for stores and public places that want to smell nice, and says that for Internet cafes, hotels, movie theaters and stores it has developed special services that use a combination of fragrances along with content distibuted on the web, that is related to astrology, movies, music and background videos.