Dave Molter

A phone by any other name

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Among the many words of wisdom amassed by Gordon Sumner – British rocker Sting to the uninitiated – are these: “I never saw no miracle of science that didn’t go from a blessing to a curse.” Written in 1993, I believe these lyrics presage the oPhone.


Not iPhone – oPhone. Set to beta launch in July, the oPhone was developed by David Edwards, a biomedical engineer at Harvard and founder of Le Laboratorie, a contemporary art and design center in Paris. Edwards is running a crowdfunding campaign to underwrite the oPhone’s launch. So far, he has raised about $4,800 of his $150,000 goal.


The oPhone crowdfunding website explains why you might want an oPhone:


“Think about what happens when you walk into a great cafe, experience a terrific meal, or walk on an amazing beach. Beyond the terrific sights and sounds there are the magical aromas. … They elicit memories, diminish stress, and excite our emotions. Imagine sharing these memories and emotions with friends. … With the oPhone your experience can live on. Inside each oPhone is an ‘aromatic vocabulary.’ … Not only is it powerful, it is also beautifully designed and will look great wherever you decide to put it.”


I can think of at least one place you should put your oPhone. Another place would be in your garbage can.


I’m not part of the generation that thinks posting your mundane activities to Facebook every 35 seconds is an essential part of life. Snapping and propagating a picture of the amazing meal you’re about to eat says only one thing to me: “I’m eating this, and you’re not! Ha ha ha ha, ha ha!” If you’re into that sort of one-upsmanship, then I suppose using your oPhone to waft the meal’s smell into the ether would be the perfect coup de grace:


*fist pump* – Smell this, sucker!


Be careful, though. With oPhone’s “over 300,000 unique aroma combinations,” you’d better brush up on high school chemistry or risk having your lobster thermidor scent come across like essence of rotten egg omelet.


And if smells really do elicit memories, how do we know they will elicit the correct memories? To you, the smell of apple pie might bring back pleasant memories of wonderful Thanksgiving dinners over the river and through the woods at grandmother’s house. To me, that smell would remind me of the time the neighborhood bully tied me to an apple tree and poured melted vanilla ice cream over my head … then waited for the ants to arrive. (Whitey, if you’re reading this, I forgave you long ago. Don’t bother looking me up on Facebook.)


Homer and Jethro, a popular country music act who offered hilarious song parodies, summed up my thoughts perfectly in their 1956 take on “My Special Angel”:


“Your sweet perfume must be real expensive. One sniff and I’m heaven bound.


Is it Eaudy Cologny, or is it baloney, 20 cents a pound?”


But perhaps the most compelling reason to be less than thrilled with the possibility that the oPhone might hit the market is this: One of Le Laboratorie’s previous products is Le Whif, a calorie-free chocolate spray which, according to its promotional material, “contains hundreds of milligrams of tiny food particles.”


I can’t help but think that snorting chocolate would be a gateway to snorting Coke.


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