Apparently This Matters: Smell-O-Vision for your phone

Smells like a potentially bad idea. But that might also just be me. #NoShowerFridays

Story highlights

  • ChatPerf attaches to mobile devices and can be triggered to emit odors
  • Smell-O-Vision was used in movie theaters in 1960
  • Developers hope to make it available in the fall

We just can't leave well-enough alone.

In 1960, the movie "Scent of Mystery" opened in theaters, marking the first and only official attempt at Smell-O-Vision, in which strategic odors were emitted during the film from little pipes near the seats.

At the time, it was big thinking and an interesting draw for moviegoers, sort of like the collective asthma attack everyone developed a few years ago for modern 3-D. Which I think most of us will now agree is more trouble than it's worth.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

Like wearing pants.

Before Smell-O-Vision, other motion pictures had unsuccessfully tried to use aromas in disjointed and haphazard ways. But in "Scent of Mystery," new, specific patented technology was developed to actually drive the plot. And that hadn't been done before.

Fortunately, the storyline had nothing to do with Peter Lorre getting sick from bad oysters. Though the reviews might've been interesting.

"I liked it up until the 30-minute bathroom scene. Two stars."

"Scent of Mystery" was eventually de-odorized and retitled "Holiday in Spain," at which point Smell-O-Vision was neatly tucked away in the vault of American bad ideas.

It now shares that space with game footage from the XFL.

But more than 60 years later, a startup company in Japan is bringing back the Smell-O-Vision concept for a smaller screen. Specifically, the one on your phone.

Sexting just got way more interesting.

They call this thing ChatPerf, and it's a thumb-drive-sized atomizer that plugs into your mobile device so it can be triggered to release specific odors on command. However, the major design limitation is that it can release only one specific fragrance from whatever scent tank you happen to have inserted into the atomizer.

So God help you if you suddenly want to smell "Summer Flowers" but accidentally left the house with "Larry the Cable Guy Doing Situps."


Holding but one fragrance tank at a time definitely steals some of the potential fun, for it also seems unlikely that you could remotely sneak attack a friend who's on a first date, digitally wafting his table with the putrid stink of rotten eggs.

Not that it would necessarily change things.

"Um, Jarrett, did you just pass gas?"

"Yes. Yes, I did."

Naturally, this new little gizmo is still in development, but they hope to have it out in markets by the fall for both iPhone and Android. Which, sadly, will be months too late for strategically teaming up with Bonnaroo so tech-savvy music fans can olfactorily brag to everyone back home with the familiar summer festival smell of a hot Port-O-John.

"Sounds like Heather is having fun."

"Don't you mean smells like Heather is having fun?"

"Ha ha ha! Yes. We have indoor plumbing."

But the sky seems to be the limit for ChatPerf, so long as we agree that the sky is rather low and remarkably pointless. That said, the company is being smart and releasing a software development kit to encourage outsiders to hack away at new, creative uses for different smells.

So, you never know. Perhaps there's hope for something interesting. I just can't think of what that might be.

Nevertheless, Team ChatPerf thinks there are possibilities ranging from the pleasant to the completely absurd. For instance, they excitedly ponder the possibility of concert venues handing out tanks of sweat for fans to truly experience the closeness of their favorite performer on stage.

Clearly, they've never been to a Meatloaf concert.

One somewhat practical application, they say, might also be for game play, where, say, a shooting game could be programmed to release the smell of gunpowder. Or a driving game might enhance the experience with burning rubber.

Come to think of it, maybe even World of Warcraft could be designed to smell like your mom's basement. You know, just in case you happen to emerge from the darkness to play the game somewhere else.

Not that you'd want to.

At least it has indoor plumbing.

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