NTT Becomes a Smell-o-Phone Company

Will aroma advertising pass the smell test?

4 min read

1 January 2008—If you thought the art of communication had reached its zenith in multimedia technology’s ability to grab the attention of our eyes and ears through text, video, and sound, think again. Japan’s NTT Communications Corp., of Tokyo, is busy developing its Kaori Tsushin, or Fragrance Communications, as a way to pull our noses into the equation. The telecom and network services company has come up with an Internet-linked fragrance system that can be used to generate a wide variety of scents on demand with the aim of heightening experiences, influencing moods, and maybe opening wallets.

In searching out potential business applications, NTT is testing the technology in stores, hotels, and cinemas, and last year it began selling a personal version of the technology to consumers at its online store. Its latest business-to-business experiment is taking place in an underground shopping mall beneath Tokyo Station. In a 10-week trial that recently ended, the company installed an aroma-emitting digital signage unit at the entrance to a Kirin City beer hall, one of a chain of pubs. The idea is to see what effect the release of fragrances has on mall visitors, compared with the times when no fragrances are emitted.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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