Thursday, 16 May 2013

Remote scent dispensing earns the sweet smell of success

This year's 3D Con was held in Maputo, Mozambique, and drew record crowds from all continents, people looking to learn the latest in remote materials and product delivery. The 2084 meet is the 35th 3D Con and the second to be held in Africa, where many of the base materials for the technology are sourced. Columnist and tech maven Jacker Preeble caught up with Glaze Bryant, from 3D delivery leader RemForth, to talk about how the industry is developing in our connected world.

Last year RemForth launched a new line of remote delivery platforms, the Olfa 3900 DX series. How has the product been received in the market to this point in time, Glaze?

Sure, Jacker. We brought out the Olfa 3900 series to leverage on our Periodic Cartridge technology. The system had worked fairly well in the earlier lines, the 2500 and 2600b series, but we had some problems with differentiation, materials handling and also with data interpretation. On this last issue, especially, the 3900 series is light years ahead of the earlier lines in terms of reproducibility, tonality and sensitivity. There were complaints from some customers who used the earlier models that the smells they were getting were too "blocky" and did not always match with what other people were saying about specific data matrices. For example, while some people found chapter two of The Great Gatsby to be refreshing and fun, others complained that it was almost identical to something from Faulkner. We have worked hard to improve the performance of our smell generators.

But the materials handling function is pretty important too, right?

Yes, of course. Gold is solid at room temperature, for example, and we need to heat it inside the device to a pretty high temperature so it'll work in the preparation phase all the way to the nozzle and the evaporation bowl. The systems behind the Periodic Cartridge are now very sophisticated; but we're doing things that, even three years ago, would have been considered impossible. And we have partnered with new people, especially in universities, to make sure the literature criticism algorithms - and the chemistry - work better than ever.

You're getting a lot of new ideas from local people with culture skills as well, I understand?

This is really an exciting phase of the business, and it's something that we're getting from sites such as Scenterest. These are ditigised cultural mash-ups, often invented by regular people out in the community. It's pretty interesting for everyone, frankly, and we can now add data modules to the 3900 series that will allow anyone to download '.SCT' files from any website that lets you enjoy them. There are even interpretation websites that let you convert text files into .SCT files, which can then easily be uploaded to the web and shared, or just imported into your own Olfa 3900 DX.

What sort of mash-ups are we seeing? What are the most popular?

In terms of innovative scent delivery, there are some pretty unusual data files coming out of the networked community. We've got one item, which is Zizek on Habermas on Dickens, that is causing quite a sensation among some groups of people globally. While you might think that this kind of combination of ideas and literary approaches might be quite dry and uninteresting, people are telling us that they get a real buzz out of them. And the perfume companies are starting to take notice. Those individuals who develop that data are even securing licensing agreements with the big luxury brands that make perfumes. For our part, we have a number of bloggers who have made unique discoveries and we market their smells within our standard lines.

I think it's really interesting that this industry has developed in the way it has. What are the precedents?

Well, there's the classic Stanislav Lem dystopia where scents are used for crowd control, but that was written 100 years ago. What we're seeing now is something that scientists have been saying since the turn of the century: that laughter and pleasure are good for you, good for your health, they allow you to work better, more efficiently. So we market our products to companies as something that will lift productivity and help people really engage with their work.

Now that you've nailed the text-to-scent pathway, what is in store in future from RemForth?

I would hesitate to say that we've "nailed it", but we're happier with our products now in a way that we weren't, say, five years ago. We still have a way to go with market penetration, reducing unit costs, and with development of cheaper base materials that can help to bring down the operational cost of these devices. We know that people are asking for this. Mercedes started using scent dispensing in its high-end cars a long time ago but we have built on that to enable people to carry their output devices wherever they are. We want to do more on price, and we want to expand the range of niche areas we target, with unique products that literally anyone can enjoy.

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