With the goal of enabling Panasonic to commercialize the missing sensory experience of smell, we began investigating the possibilities in the summer of 2017. Our results will be shown to the world at SXSW 2018. Today, we would like to share with you our product ideas for aroma.
I was working at the Appliances Company's Design Center until last spring. My activities there did not involve designing current products, but rather proposals for lifestyles of the near future. Working in the area of home entertainment, I dealt with products such as TVs, as well as video and audio equipment. My design themes involved content to be enjoyed using each of these products, namely, video and music. I was striving to not only improve daily convenience for people, but also to consider the value of lifestyles that include this entertainment content. In addition, while participating in the project for the Ambient Media Player (AMP) exhibited at SXSW last year, I began to think about the relationship between entertainment content and people's emotions. While designing relationships between content and people in living spaces, I noticed that something was missing. The missing factor was aroma.
I was already aware of aroma-themed products on the market. Until now, I have simply regarded the use of aroma as a means for relaxation, and I haven't inspired much by other companies' activities on aroma-themed products. When focusing on the aspect of people's emotions, I decided to revisit the possibilities of aroma-based content, and the value of fragrance in daily life.
The Five Senses
Humans have five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. We have created products related to video and music, which deliver content appealing to the visual and auditory senses. These products help bring excitement and healing into people's lives. Now, the third sense is the topic of our current aroma-based design theme. Signals from the olfactory system reach the brain more quickly than those from our eyes or ears, and our sense of smell seems to be closely connected with memory. In other words, when recalling the past, aroma is the most direct way to awaken memories, even faster than seeing a landscape or hearing music from those days.
Pairing Music and Aroma?!
With the demo system we will exhibit at SXSW 2018, users can choose an aroma by selecting music that expresses their feelings. Rather than just offering aromas for relaxation, we designed the system so that users can experience various fragrances, feel a closeness, and then realize the value that aroma can bring to daily life.
Actually, the idea of combining music and aroma is not new. In the 1800s, English perfumer Septimus Piesse designed a system of fragrance notes linked to musical notes. For this system, he arranged different aromas on a musical scale to show how aromas could be blended like the playing of harmonious chords.
* Reference: Choko-shi no Note; Shoji Nakamura
Try searching "odophone" online!
Meanwhile, in Japan as well, in the 1700s (the Edo period) there was a cultural phenomenon that involved "listening to" (rather than smelling) incense to distinguish them.
There is also a game called Genji-ko where participants identify and match incense wood aromas in various combinations that correspond to different chapters of the classic novel, Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji).
* If you are interested, please search "Genji-ko" online.
It is interesting that both Eastern and Western cultures have games and systems that use aroma and the five senses.
In our demo system, we use motion graphics (color and images) together with music, which act as triggers for users to express their feelings.
Until now, I have been engaged in product development for television and video recorders. With AMP, I took on the challenge of designing not only equipment, but also video content distribution. Now I am trying to tackle the new world of aroma delivery.
What? Delivering aroma? How? Although video and music can be transmitted and received as digital files, how do you deliver aroma to the homes of users? Since aroma is a substance, you might conjure up an image of a aroma pipeline.
Focus on Feelings and Emotions
Of course, it is not practical to send out aroma substances through pipelines. Instead, we use cartridges that form the base for various fragrances that can be produced by a user device. We are trying to reproduce certain fragrances by mixing base ingredients. Users may want to experience a particular feeling, or to match a particular situation to a aroma. The recipe for the desired feeling is transmitted as data, and the device creates a matching aroma.
In the future, our technology will make it possible to check your schedule and physical condition, and then automatically enhance your interior space with fragrance that best meets your needs. You will no longer need to consciously select the feeling you wish to enjoy. The aim is to help create a world where everyone can feel stress-free and happy all the time.