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Scentography is the technique of creating and storing odor by artificially recreating a smell using chemical and electronic means.


DigiScents Inc was among the more recent pioneers of the technology, developing DigiScent (later iSmell) in 1999 as a device that would plug into a computer's USB port and generate scents dependent on the online content being viewed. The company ceased trading in 2011. [1] [2]

In 2013, Amy Radcliffe, a Master's student in the Textile Futures department of Central Saint Martins, London introduced a prototype of a desktop device to record aromas. For the project, she drew on headspace technology pioneered in the 1980s by Roman Kaiser to capture smells in the air around certain objects. [3]

Called the Madeleine, after the Marcel Proust episode from Remembrance of Things Past, the device is a working prototype of a new kind of camera to record smell. [3] It consists of a funnel to be placed over the object with the scent you wish to capture. This is attached to a pump that draws air into an odor trap made of a porous polymer resin. According to Radcliffe, it can take from a few minutes to a whole day to capture the odour in liquid form, depending on its intensity. [3]

So far, several samples have been sent for analysis in a gas chromatography–mass spectrometry machine at a fragrance laboratory. In the scenario developed for the prototype, the Madeleine would be taken for local lab processing in a similar way to conventional photographic film. [3] [4]

The device was exhibited during Milan Fashion Week in April 2013. [4]

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The iSmell Personal Scent Synthesizer developed by DigiScents Inc. is a small device that can be connected to a computer through a Universal serial bus (USB) port and powered using any ordinary electrical outlet. The appearance of the device is similar to that of a shark’s fin, with many holes lining the “fin” to release the various scents. Using a cartridge similar to a printer’s, it can synthesize and even create new smells by combining certain combinations of other scents. These newly created odors can be used to closely replicate common natural and manmade odors. The cartridges used also need to be swapped every so often once the scents inside are used up. Once partnered with websites and interactive media, the scents can be activated either automatically once a website is opened or manually. However, the product is no longer on the market and never generated substantial sales. Digiscent had plans for the iSmell to have several versions but did not progress past the prototype stage. The company did not last long and filed for bankruptcy a short time after.

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  1. "Wired 7.11: You've Got Smell!". 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  2. "32. Digiscents Inc — The 50 Worst Internet Startup Fails of All Time". Complex. 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Wainwright, Oliver (2013-06-28). "Scentography: the camera that records your favourite smells | Art and design |". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-07-02.
  4. 1 2 "Madeleine | Idol Magazine". Retrieved 2013-07-02.

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