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Get a whiff of the future as scientists send first trans-Atlantic digital smell-o-gram

The oPhone will be put into full production next year. They will retail for $199 (U.S.).

Michel Figuet/Indiegogo

A whiff of the future came wafting over the Atlantic this week, and it couldn't have smelled sweeter. But do we need it?

On Tuesday, the world's first trans-Atlantic digital smell-o-gram was sent from Paris to New York. A fragrance chemist in the City of Light sent the smells of champagne and chocolate to inventors David Edwards, a Harvard professor, and Rachel Field, at the American Museum of Natural History, CBS News reported.

The scents were sent using a new iPhone app called oSnap and were transmitted through a device called the oPhone.

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Here's how it works: You take a picture of food (the device's available scents are almost all of food, by the sounds of it), then pick a matching scent from one of 32 different cartridges that can create more than 300,000 aroma combinations, and you can share the delicious odour of your buttered baguette with your friends.

Does anyone actually want to do that? It may sound far fetched. But then again, it wasn't that long ago that the idea of taking a picture of your food at a restaurant and posting it on a site to share with everyone you know wouldn't have passed the smell test of everyday behaviour, either.

Ariel Bogle defended the technology on Slate.

"Smell, arguably more than any other sense, can conjure powerful emotions and memories, so maybe it is time for technology to pay a little attention to our olfactory needs," she writes.

As for the practical jokers out there who want to send some stinky message to friends, the company behind the technology says it will focus on food scents, with plans to tackle coffee next.

Vapor Communications, the Paris and Cambridge, Mass.-based company behind the oPhone, plans to put them into full production next year. They will retail for $199 (U.S.).

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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