The Viridian Design Movement

Viridian Note 00408: Clouds of Scent

Key concepts
Viridian Aromatizer Contest, public participation
Attention Conservation Notice:
Even more rapidly accumulating entries in the Viridian Aromatizer Contest. Special bonus non-sequitur: lots of astonishing pictures from NASA.


Bored by daffy contests? Well, try watching these remarkable clouds. Did you ever wonder just how weird our planet's clouds can get when the weather is unbelievably strange?

Imagine stepping into the street to pick up some groceries and eyeballing one of these babies.

New Entries in the Viridian Aromatizer Contest:

The Viridian Contest Repository.

From: SeJ*
(Stefan Jones of the Viridian Curia)

As a prospective dog owner, I'm reading lots of books on training canines.

They all have a heavy emphasis on establishing communication with your pet, whether it be with a swift yank of a choke chain or carefully pitched voices.

With the Aromatizer, you send messages tailored for your pet's greatest sensory asset.

It would take the form of a bluetooth-equipped gadget that clips to a collar or harness.

A control box, perhaps with a wrist strap, would be wielded by the trainer.

The doggy part of the system would waft out microscopic puffs of odor on command. Some smells would be unpleasant, and obviously used to indicate displeasure. Some would be pleasant (from the point of view of a dog), to use as a reward.

A combination of gesture, vocal command, and scent would make the trainer's intentions much less ambiguous.


From: gregg* (Gregg Hale)

Use the aromatizer to tell you the weather while you check your email: smell of sunscreen means day will be sunny, smell of wet pavement means bring your umbrella.

From: smendler*
(More entries from Skip Mendler of the
Viridian Curia)

Ready for more, oh most melli-aromal of Pope-Emperors?

As M. Proust famously demonstrated, a scent can set off a complex series of conscious and subconscious associations. The Aromatizer's recording function could be used as a kind of memo pad, if one remembers to record the scent of a particular moment. One might use the scent later to help recall. Students might key various bits of info to particular scents, and then use the scents to help them recall the info at exam time.

One would also expect the Aromatizer to accelerate the scientific study of what is now called aromatherapy, and make it a much more exact practice; we might find the particular scent that triggers the hormonal sequence that results in feelings of confidence, say, which might come in handy right before you make That Big Presentation. Other specifically engineered scents might be found that heighten one's mental acuity, one's pattern recognition abilities, or any of ther myriad intelligences...

(((Oh yeah. Sure.)))

And don't forget the battlefield uses – spreading the Smell of Fear among the enemy – and the converse usage, foreseen by John Brunner in Stand on Zanzibar, a scent that renders opponents – friendly...

/ /skip
Skip Mendler
mime: stuff: 1984+20 Project:

From: viridian* (Willie Beegle)

Some new cars are coming with GPS and navigation systems. The newest ones also sometimes detect real-time changes in traffic. Imagine a device that emits a slightly unpleasant smell (hot asphalt, perhaps) when a traffic jam or detour is detected ahead. Also, perhaps the "check engine" light could be combined with a "check engine" smell.

For a car, the scent cartridges will be a particular problem. Suggestion: ensure that the cartridges last at least 3000 miles, then make deals with the dealership and Jiffy Lube to offer cartridge refills with every oil change.

A device that checks the weather, or stock reports, or other interesting things and fires a "status" smell every hour. Perhaps a salty "beach" smell when it's hot and sunny, a "rain" smell when it's overcast, and a peppermint smell when it's cold. You could measure the same sort of things that the Ambient Orb does.

An email plug-in (that only works when the email client is running) that fires when an "urgent" email goes unread for more than 30 minutes (or whatever time you configure). Perhaps a gasoline smell ("potentially explosive situation") could be used.

Similar to the above, fire a pleasant smell when you receive email from someone you like and it goes unread. Perhaps a cut-grass smell for the latest Viridian Note.

It's probably good to think about what won't work:

Web browser plug-ins. Have you ever been annoyed by a web page with a MIDI background song? Do you think that smell will be any less annoying, especially when you're paying for it?

Anything that causes the device to fire when you might not be there. Imagine a cell-phone aromatizer that fires with each call. Your mother/wife/whoever calls a dozen times while the phone is sitting in the car. Instant uninhabitable car.

Any sufficiently strong or natural smell that might trigger allergies. Allergies will be a particular problem in shared office space.

Good luck.

Willie Beegle

From: stewarts*
(Duncan Stewart of the Viridian Curia)

Excellent! Active contest participation! Smells like a winner!

Too much so, actually – got to act fast before the good ones are taken!)

Smell is primal; it turns on memory and promotes instantaneous like/dislike associations. New smells good; old just smells. If you could capture 'newness' and release it slowly over time, you could retain brand loyalty.

1) New car smell – It's like the flavor of chewing gum; so good, but so short-lived. If you could capture the essence of that smell*, and release it gradually, you might not care so much that your purchase dropped 1/4 of its value as soon as you pulled out of the lot. (Since it's likely that 'new car' consists of the poisonous emissions of solvents and adhesives, mixed with the long-chain monomers of modern manufacturing, a Viridian Green KleanCarSmel would fetch a premium price!)

2) Cell phones – they gradually release the smell of chocolate, so you're less likely to go for the latest hardware (but only if you stay with your original service provider; if you change providers, they start to smell like not-so-fresh fish!)

Nokia forms an alliance with Droste and Nestle, patenting chocolate-truffle flavas for their communicator lines, with an eye towards retaining their edge in the EU and USA. Ningbo Bird, however, Chinese upstart, teams with Haribo gummi bears and the makers of Mega Warheads and crushes the competition in the exploding Tween market.

3) Psychotherapy – What better way to relive your childhood?! Like one of those 'spider' conference phones, the emitter sits in front of the patient while the remote sits by the doctor. "So, what is your earliest memory? (smells of baby rice cereal, poached eggs, holiday gingerbread stand at the ready). (For me, the smell of a freshly run off mimeograph would send me right back to Junior High. Ah, toluene (or methyl alcohol, whatever)... )

4) Privacy – Don't like people messing with your private stuff (your desk, computer, meticulously organized sock drawer, stash, whatever..)? Perhaps a little rotten-egg smell will keep away unwanted guests. Or, for the guest that refuses to leave, silent-but-deadly 'tabs' in the seat cushions could be activated by remote control.

These'll do for now.

Duncan Stewart

From: kjas* (Kim Allen)


Most cat owners would pay a lot to have the couch smell unappealing to Fifi, with her sharp little claws. How about finding smells that repel animals but are not offensive to humans (kind of like the way dogs hear frequencies that we can't). A little Aromatizer tucked into the sofa frame could emit a slow leak of the repellant right along that area that's starting to fray.


Jenny Craig Stinks



Long-time listener, first-time caller...

It's interesting how so many people first think of uses for bad smells. You know that's not going to go over. I already see so many parties and events with "scent free" notices on invitations.

But I do like the idea that we'll need a boutique store to re-supply the Aromatizer. "Honey, the Hawleys are coming over, so don't forget to pick up some extra sandalwood cartridges at All Things Stinky!"

I think the killer smeller app is a voluntary behavior modification device. With processed foods and added sweeteners, you can no longer rely on your built-in senses to reliably report that what smells good or tastes good is really good for you.

So hook the Aromatizer up to a barcode scanner and a database, and let the appropriate smell be piped directly to you, to aid in making health-conscious shopping and eating decisions.

Morbidly obese? Set the system for low-fat and high fiber. The double-cheeseburgers are a bit whiff, but the rice cakes smell heavenly.

Settings available for those who want to lower sodium intake, avoid or seek out GMO comestibles, or are even looking to be responsible consumers, and only partake of environmentally-correct products ("The over-fished fish is a bit too fishy.")

After a while, the user can do away with the smell-mod training wheels, and the learned avoidance behavior sticks, as is all too familiar to anyone who has had food-poisoning. Or a bad tequila drunk.

On a more Viridian note, the same thing hooked up to a GPS would give the traveler an edge on identifying environmentally-tainted areas. Don't drink the water here – it smells funny.

Superfund sites, mercury spill at the rail yard, ozone-level alerts, all could feed in. This sounds goofy, but is not too far off from the established idea of adding butyl mercaptan to odorless natural gas to aid in identifying leaks.

Final note – People are asking about smell detectors. Wasn't there a UT Austin spin-off based on "electric nose" or "electric tongue" technology? I can't find any trace of them now.

Good luck to Paul Groepler and Headspace Technologies.

Raymond McCauley

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