Photo credit: © StockFood / Winkelmann, Bernhard
For the first time ever, Harvard scientist David Edwards transferred a scent overseas—from Paris to New York—via an iPhone. Through Edwards’s oSnap app, his colleague took a photo in Paris Tuesday afternoon, tagged it with a few words describing its aroma, and sent the file to New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where Edwards downloaded it and connected it to a funny-looking nozzled contraption called an oPhone Duo. The Duo then emitted said colleague’s prescribed aromas through two pipes and into Edwards’s nostrils.
All that’s well and good, but what was the smell?!?!?!?
A glass of Champagne and a passion fruit macaron by Pierre Hermé, “The Picasso of Pastry,” as French Vogue dubbed him years ago. “It’s not just not any macaron, it’s the best macaron, says Edwards, who has lived in Paris, “the epicenter of the fragrance world,” for eight years but travels to the States often for work. “We were interested in sending an experience as much as we were interested in sending a scent. So we wanted to find a quintessential Parisian experience that’s maybe hard to access for most people,” he said of the macaron choice. “And the Champagne was because we couldn’t have Champagne at the museum but wanted to celebrate in some way.”
You can duplicate the results yourself. The oPhone is available for purchase on Indiegogo for $149, but communal oPhones will be available to the public at the American Museum of Natural History for three consecutive weekends starting July 12. Other “hotspots,” as Edwards is calling them, will be located in Paris and Cambridge, Massachusetts, so that anyone who has used oSnap (free on iTunes) will be able to upload photos and smell them.
“Once we began to live virtual lives, they started becoming increasingly synthetic lives,” Edwards said. “We began to move our experience towards a non-material world. But where’s the aroma?! We’ve gotten into an anti-aroma existence, but we inherently know that something’s not quite right about it.” The oPhone is basically a step towards making tech-driven behavior more “real” by weaving scent experiences into photo sharing.
Currently in an alpha phase and armed with a limited number of food-related aromas, Edwards plans to expand the program as he learns more about how people are using it. (Our attempt at classifying eggs on toast using the sixteen currently available terms is below.)
Chefs, of course, are intrigued. Not only is Edwards in talks with coffee expert Antoine Nétien of Coutume Café, Paris chef Inaki Aizpitarte, and Italian father-son duo Raphael and Maximiliano Ajamo, but he also plans to open a restaurant in Cambridge in October. Called Cafe Art Science and helmed by No. 9 Park’s Patrick Campbell and Clio barman Todd Maul, it will be a restaurant and oPhone hotspot. Plans aren’t fully baked yet, but after our phone conversation with Edwards, he was off to a dinner promoting the concept. On the menu: steak tartare with green asparagus mousse, caviar and pickled lemon, and a gin cocktail with cherry and lime juice. We wonder how many aroma tags will be served up alongside them.