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The Aroma of Fine Wine From Your Computer 136

SonomaSteve writes "Wine Spectator Magazine is reporting on a new computer accessory that could have you smelling fine Burgundy wine over the web. The prototype, called Olfacom, is being developed by France Telecom and showcased by the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB.) The technology uses 'essential oils' stored in several tanks inside the peripheral to generate aromas like hay, flowers and fruit. Will Olfacom be more successful than DigiScents? The French say, 'Mais, oui!'"
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The Aroma of Fine Wine From Your Computer

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  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:05AM (#9283932)
    Imagine the applications in porn!

    Actually, it would probably result in some shocking realizations for most geeks.
    • Speaking of which, whatever happened to smell-o-vision? Forget HDTV, let me smell the ribs from the Applebee's ad, or the Tacos from the Mexian sitcom.
    • This is not neccesarily just a humorous quip ; there are all sorts of niche interests for olfactory fetishists.

      I doubt anything will ever come of this sort of thing, but it does have the potential to revolutionize certain businesses. That is what the entrepeneuers are always thinking about, and that's why this technology keeps resurfacing every few years.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You're wrong, for many geeks there would be no chance of smelling the computer over their own masking odor.
    • All the fragance companies had better copyright their scents!
    • That was the first thing I thought of when I read this. Of course I saw Polyester when it was re-released with the Odorama cards.

      I sent off the link to a few contacts of mine in the Adult Industry.
  • China Lake (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Shriek ( 261178 )
    Back in the early 90's wasn't the U.S. Navy doing research like this in conjunction with their virtual reality research programs going on at the China Lake Naval base in California?
  • Uh oh! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Phekko ( 619272 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:06AM (#9283935)
    Talk about adding a whole new level to the Goatse experience!

  • Smellevision...and here I thought it would always be a bad joke from the 80s...
    • It is still my opinion that (the good ol' food channel) will be the first to introduce smellable websites, or at least plug-ins.

      we'll see.

    • Seriously, though... (Score:5, Informative)

      by blorg ( 726186 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:49AM (#9284049)
      ...Smell-O-Vision [] *was* a short-lived movie fad in 1960. During the 50s in particular the movie industry tried lots of gimmicks (e.g. 3D) to counter the rising popularity of TV. The only one that really took hold (unfortunately in the view of many directors) was widescreen. One would think that all the people pursuing computer smell attachments would have learned from that experience.
      • The only equipment that I could see making good use of scent are 3D simulation games, or army/intel training games. Teaching people how to pay attention to everything around them, including smells.

        For games, I can only imagine this being part of a deeply immersive experience, although that would require much better screen resolutions, probably some 10 years off.

        Until then, this is going to stay a niche thing
      • Most of them are probably too young to remember the seventies, let alone the fifties.
      • The Term "Smell-O-Vision" came before the 50s, it came in the 1944 Bugs Bunny Short "The Old Grey Hare" [] where An old, wrinkled Fudd picks up a newspaper and it reads "Smell-O-Vision Replaces Television."
    • I'm still waiting to get my, ummmm, hands on, Feel-A-round!

    • I want to make sure these odor output devices are interoperable. What is Microsoft ends up locking up the market with some sort of proprietary system? What if they deliberately rework Windows to make competing devices smell like shit?

      Thankfully, there's an RFC for a truly open protocol: the Olfactory Transport Protocol (OTP) []. Hopefully, people will use it.

      • I forgot to mention, in addition to the OTP RFC, there is a whole host of other information related to OTP and the WebOdor initiative [].
      • What if they deliberately rework Windows to make competing devices smell like shit?

        Worse yet; Imagine some prankster or worse (skript kiddie?) who's website opens a thousand windows, all of which smell like the raunchiest Porto-Potty you've ever been within 100 feet of on a hot summer day.

        Imagine co-workers sending a fart over AIM to embarrass you in your cubicle while you're talking to the new hot blonde who wants to go out friday night...

        ...then again, imagine all that happening to your boss...maybe

  • Again? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AstrumPreliator ( 708436 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:13AM (#9283953)
    I've heard about these types of devices quite a few times before. Infact I think the first time I heard about something like this TechTV was still known as ZDTV.

    It's pretty obvious that it didn't work out before, I'm not sure why they're still trying.
  • it can mix the wine perfectly from some basic ingredients available cheaply.

    can't see the wine buffs falling for this though..
    • The wine buffs will supplemented by a whole generation of people drinking simulated 100 year old Georgian Brandy like kool aid while they scratch their life savings together to buy a single bottle. Same thing will happen with synthetic meat and perhaps even vegatables but it would be hard to imagine how they could make synthetic veggies more cost effective than hydroponic ones.
  • Time and again... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:15AM (#9283958)
    I have lost count of all these gadgets. Every other month, some geekish junior entrepreneur comes up with the idea to put a few oils in a box and connect them to a modified bubble-jet printer's head.

    First: How should this ever really work? There are millions of scents out there and our noses are really sensitive organs. How should five or ten different oils be able to reproduce all the variations? Remember, we are not talking of different frequencies of one single quality (as with light) but of really different substances. One cannot mix scents as on mixes colors.

    Second: Even given it would work: Does anyone want such a thingy? Just wait till the first script kid out there writes a worm that fills half of the world's office cubicles with the nice smell of, [insert your favorite salacity here].
    • Yes, and I know just the clown who would do it, too. Heh.
    • by ksp ( 203038 )
      Are you really sure it's impossible to mix scents to produce a certain experience of smell? Like synthetic flavours/smells, very different compounds create a similar perception of smell. I believe vanilla is more or less impossible to create synthetic, but many compounds have a "vanilla-like" smell. Just like we trick our visual perception by mixing colours or quickly displaying a series of stills - creating an illusion like what you are watching on your screen right now.

      I would not be surprised if a limit
      • Re:Time and again... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @06:13AM (#9284196)
        Smell is based on shape. The shape of the molecule seems to be what determines how it smells. Thus it's hard to achieve a small just through mixing. Further, your idea kind of contradicts itself. You note that we can create synthetic smells and tastes, yet then think this can be applied to something like fine wine. Well one thing you'll notice with the synthetics is that they aren't the real thing. They may resemble it to some degree, but they are quite far off. Eat a strawberry candy, then a real strawberry and tell me that they are the same thing.

        For something like fine wine, where the smell is subitle and complex, it would totally fall flat. I mean that's what really makes fine alcohol fine. Wine smells and tastes like wine, be it jug wine or $300/bottle. However the finer vintages are more mellow, and have unique flavours and smells. Getting a synthetic to simulate something like the basic wine taste is probably no problem. Getting it to be like Opus One or Domaine de Chevalier is a whole different story.
      • Re:Time and again... (Score:4, Informative)

        by tftp ( 111690 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @06:26AM (#9284230) Homepage
        I believe the difference here is that by mixing colors you can get all the colors in between. In fact, it can be mathematically proven (if you don't trust your eyes :-)

        However there is no obvious way to mix smell of vanilla with smell of creosote and get the smell of rose, for example. Furthermore, you can not get the smells of varying roses by changing the amount of creosote or vanilla. Smells are not very additive.

        This still doesn't mean that such a device is impossible. It only means that you need many different "essential oils" (a.k.a. stinky liquids) to generate some good number of smells.

        But on the other hand such a device does not have to generate many smells. A marketdroid may be happy if each "oil" generates just one smell, and that's it - the device just can make 10 or 20 smells at all. This would be acceptably good to accompany TV ads, for example.

        However I see no way in hell a device like this can recreate a smell of some good wine. It is even hardly possible to do in a chemical lab. Wine is quite a complex product. Year and age of the wood used to make the barrels may make a big difference; those 10 or so oils can't even approach that precision; I would be even surprised if they can recreate the smell of common beer - because they'd need to stock up on some yeast products among those oils, and these wouldn't last long in that cartridge.

        The previous device failed, and this one is likely to follow. The main reason to that is not its limited spectrum of smells, but the absence of any need for the device. Sense of smell is not very strong in humans, and we are not driven by it as we are driven by vision or by hearing. There are theaters of vision (movies), there are theaters of word (drama) and music (opera etc.) but no smell theaters. We are just mostly blind to smells.

        • If you want to experience a 'smell theater', try the bathroom at my job around 5pm, before the janitor gets in there with his bleach.
        • I imagine that a low refresh rate will mean a very low rate of flow of (new) information.
        • Sense of smell is not very strong in humans, and we are not driven by it as we are driven by vision or by hearing. There are theaters of vision (movies), there are theaters of word (drama) and music (opera etc.) but no smell theaters. We are just mostly blind to smells.

          I don't think that this is the major reason. We are not that great at smells, but to say we are blind to it?

          More importantly is the speed and locality of smells. Because of this we do not _communicate_ by smell (except in puberty).


      • remember that 80's fad called 'Scratch 'N Sniff'? i remember some of those stickers smelling pretty damn real.
        The basic idea behind scratch and sniff is to take the aroma generating chemical and encapsulate it in gelatin or plastic spheres that are incredibly small, about a few microns in diameter. Scratching ruptures a few of these spheres generating the smell.

        with this idea, couldn't you make a box containing millions and millions of spheres, with a few thousand different types of spheres for various a
      • I would love to buy such a gadget and accompanying software to train myself into a wine connoisseaur - without having to open a single bottle of wine.

        What the hell's the point of being a wine connoisseur if you don't like to drink wine? Are you just one of those pretentious assholes who talk about wine to make themselves look "cultured"?
    • The nose has about 30 differents sensors, which scent 30 different types of smells whose linear combinations produce all the "scentable" smells.
      Same as your eye can see 3 different basic colors (+luminance), and with that you can see about 8*10 different linear combinations of that 3 base vectors, (yes 24bit colors is double that we can see), the same stands for smell, but with 30 "base vectors" - 30 sorts of oils.
    • Although we don't presently know an orthogonal basis for perception of odor, it seems that quite a range of odors could be generated with a reasonable number of components. I believe that the no-longer manufactured iScent had 200 oils. With such a number, not only would there be a very large number of combinations, but there would be enough single odors to give a wide choice for many purposes. What does seem doubtful is whether fine distinctions like those among wines could be synthesized by a system that

  • Vapor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BodyCount07 ( 260070 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:16AM (#9283960) Homepage
    This has to be one of the longest running pieces of vaporware around. I've had to have ssen various articles about this type of technology for at least 5 years, with no products in sight.

  • Let that crazy brother use this during a video chat from accross the country when he decides that a pull my finger joke is in order.
  • It's not nice to tease people with the aromas of fine wine and leave it at that. We want to be able to taste it too!
    • It's not nice to tease people with the aromas of fine wine and leave it at that. We want to be able to taste it too!

      If you'd RTFA, you'd realize that not only are they not attempting to actually duplicate the aromas of fine wines, but that a critic has already made the exact complaint that you did.
    • If you want the aroma and the taste, get a glass of wine and set it within reach of your computer. Duh... And here in California we apparently take our wine more seriously than France Telecom does.

      The glass of wine I've got on my desk right now is just Two Buck Chuck [] cabernet, but it's good enough for an average dinner or for reading Slashdot in the evening. Some websites really need coffee [] instead.

      And the author of the press release had probably cranked up the volume on /dev/marijuana a bit too rece

  • Now I can email spammers back with a fresh scented fart!
    Sign me up.

  • and that this was already decided to not be something of much usage...? i cant imagine a hoarde of things i'd use it for, but i'm sure marketing has something in mind.
  • Wasted R&D (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bill_Royle ( 639563 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:27AM (#9283995)
    If you end up being able to replicate the smell of a good wine by mixing a couple of chemicals together (like you would with toner), I'm sure that many wineries would like the recipe. After all, they could cut costs by just using some non-toxic additive to their wine as well, right?

    No - this would be a handy companion to an emailed "flaming bag of dogshit" pic, but for items with a high quality aroma, I wouldn't hold your breath.
    • If you end up being able to replicate the smell of a good wine by mixing a couple of chemicals together (like you would with toner), I'm sure that many wineries would like the recipe. After all, they could cut costs by just using some non-toxic additive to their wine as well, right?

      That part has been tried and failed repeatedly. They can identify all the components of a given wine, catalog [] them and create the basic scent of a 1998 Bordeaux for example, but creating "wine" from the base compounds yields s

    • It's quite obviously already done on a large scale, though the winemakers refuse to admit it. Mainly for crappy novelty wines like "Beaujolais nouveau". Most of its aroma comes from added aldehydes.
    • Conversely, some of the wineries in California have labs to run GC/MS, etc. on their pressed grapes and fermenting wines to blend and adjust balance, temerature, etc. All to get the best flavor and aroma from a batch of juice.

      But there is also the yeast and wood used to age wine. Even though the yeast is carefully cultured in labs, small variations in yeast strains and the fermentation temperature make a big differnence in the final wine's esters, fusel alcohols, phenols, etc. Wood varies from year to y
  • by jjgm ( 663044 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:35AM (#9284011)
    I have odor reconstruction hardware, but people always send me .wif files!

    Unfortunately it accepts only compressed Nosepeg.

  • Socom X, don't just hear your buddies, get to smell them too....

    Including genuine "rotting corpse" smell when you make a kill.

    Then again the smell of grass as you walk onto the football pitch would be superb.
  • by neglige ( 641101 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @04:37AM (#9284017)
    ...if you're a dog.
  • one word: pr0n

    indeed, it might be interesting to experiment with additional pheromone tanks. w3c would need to extend css with olfactory properties..

    is an inverse peripheral (scent detector) in development somewhere?
  • But shouldn't it be sectioned under here []?
  • ...really, it stinks. I can smell that thang here from France.

    -- "ok, which one of you /.er farted?
  • For more details and references about the technology behind Olfacom, including videos from France Telecom, you can read a recent entry on my blog, "Sweet Smell of Wine []."
  • one thing I've always felt is that it would be impossible for france to be any MORE gay.

    technology is always proving me wrong.
  • by GEvo ( 637125 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @05:37AM (#9284134)
    [Munich] A teenager comes up with a new kind of distributed DoS attack - H2S after .

    H2S virus/ worm targets vulnerable WINDOWS machines on the internet and causing the infected machines to reboot and releasing a small does H2S (a large dose of it will desensitize your olfactory) whenever the machine is connected to the internet.

    Oh, it smells ...

  • I have wanted one since the first time I watched the movie Harold and Maude... I heard of this 'vapour ware' no pun intended before along with catch phrases such as "Movie Theatre", "Radio" and now "Computer". I usually have a pretty good nose for things that smell off, and this one is shooting fragerance to the back of my skull like I had breathed water up my nose. If it does happen to waft its way into stores, at least I will be able to send George Carlin my very own fart joke.
  • I thought the French said "Go away or I shall mock you a second time".

    Damn Monty python, next people will tell me theres no giant foot crushing things.
  • Merde!

    Sorry, it's the only french word I know ;-)
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Saturday May 29, 2004 @06:35AM (#9284240) Journal
    Dont want to be a troll but:

    No it wont be more successful

    Smell add-ons are like flying cars - we can do it but no one wants it

    Its not ironic, meaningful or in anyway interesting that "To a computer, the fragrance of a rose or a pine cone becomes just another group of zeros and ones"

    Computer games dont need smell and hardcore gamers wont give a crap

    No one will agree on a standard

    People wont buy one just to take a wine tour especially when it cant even do the bloody wine smell!

    • I don't want to be a troll-squasher, but:
      • You're probably right, we aren't there yet. Just like we aren't in the age of flying cars. A flying car just won't succeed nowadays.
      • Smell add-ons are like flying cars - in that we can create some in a really lame fashion at this point in time, and so no one will want it. This probably will change in the future as technology advances - just like the example of portable CD players.
      • It's not ironic, meaningful or in any way interesting that you, personally, do not th
  • I've Combined the cooling system of my PC with a beer making kit, so I can new brew my own beer at the same time as my PC is being overclocked.
  • I swear I first read "Olfacom" as "Ofalcom". And I thought, "Yeah, that oughta sell real well..."
  • I must contribute that "Mais oui" is frequently used with the meaning : "No ways". As for smell, it cannot be decomposed in just a small dimension vector. You may need literrally thousands of basic smells, some of them very costly and unstable. France Telecom has once again wasted our precious socialist budget in pointless pseudo-public-serving R&D. They should have given this money to me. I would have done research in geographic database with it. -- The scientists are your friends. Trust the scientis
  • ... queue the fart jokes!
  • Classic song line brought to a PC near you. Why? Wait 'til the script kiddie crowd starts writing virii for MS boxes that hurl rotten eggs (and worse) at you randomly, or when you visit MS properties. Oh yeah, Hotmail will smell just fine!

  • "you oughta get a whiff of RealAroma, the next big thing to make a stink on the Net, offering lucky users the chance to "Reach Out and Smell Someone," "Click and Sniff" and "Surf and Smell." Yes, this heaven "scent" technology is definitely the cheese: using fragrance push and ATML (Aroma Text Markup Language) you can "share smells in real time, over the Internet, with olfactory buddies all over the globe." Nobody nose better than the folks at RealAroma, who promise the release of SmellU SmellMe aroma confe
  • And some will make a very stinky virus! That will be great! Stinky world! And why buy degusting wine if you can put those essential oils into water to get the taste? Fool!
  • Why does it always have to be "Mais, oui," instead of just "Oui"? Doesn't "mais" mean "but" and "oui" mean "yes"?
  • now we get nose spam too.

  • This is not news. This is the 5000th company to dump money into the empty pit that is scent reproduction on the computer.

    Give it up people, even Digiscents was too late and too dumb.

    In 2000 some company even wanted to put this type of tech into the gaming community. Wow, smell the singed flesh and the burning rubber!
  • just ran across it the other night.. []

    They make some kind of scent dome that uses refillable cartridges.. connects to the computer via serial...

    looks like an expensive useless piece of crapola...
  • While the French may say "Mais, oui!" to perfuming the air around the computer, the rest of the world says, "Take les shower!"
  • Anyone sufficiently interested in wine to fork out the money for such a thing would already know what raspberry or cassis or cedar smelled like. What sould the market for such a device be? It's especially odd to see this being touted in Burgundy, where what separates les hommes from les garçons are the hard to describe gravelly, leathery, spicy, earthy notes. Limited to simple smells, dialing up a Domaine de La Romanée Conti La Tâche would give you something pretty much indistinguishable f
  • Just proves again that you shouldn't drink and read /. at the same time. Got a nasty purple stain on the MB and I think I killed the floppy drive too.
  • I call prior art!
    50 year old prior art infact []
  • I can see some useful, if somewhat devious, uses for this type technology.

    Smell is liked very closely with memeory and emotion and is a very effective marketing tool. Just look at Cinnabon. They are one of the biggest money makers in mall food courts because of one thing. Smell. Department stores for years have used smells in the ventilation systems to evoke certain emotions from people while shopping.

    Imagine going to a cybercafe where the machines are provided by a marketing company. As you serf, sm
  • I've heard about this for a while but have not seen anyone finally fully develop it. It will be revolutionary for companies. I can see someone selling humidors that smell like cedar or a great cigar. It is a marketing dream, but that's probably all it is. I'll stay tuned.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling