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Receive smell-o-grams with this scent-sending phone

Cofounder Rachel Field using the oPhone DUOCo-Founder Rachel Field using the oPhone DUO – David Edwards

Just imagine a world where you could snap a picture of your fancy meal, upload it to Instagram and your followers could actually get a waft of your pizza. David Edwards is making that happen.

Edwards, a Harvard professor and head of science/art innovation lab Le Laboratoire, just unveiled the first commercial version of his oPhone, the DUO,  a cylindrical gadget that transmits scents (called oNotes) via an app called oSnap. Think of it as a mobile messaging platform for sending aromatic emoticons. The oPhone might look like a strange medical device, but Edwards is betting it could usher in the beginning of the aromatic communication age.

We wrote about the oPhone a few months back while it was still being designed and developed, but Edwards and his former student Rachel Fields has recently launched an Indiegogo campaign for pre-sales (you can buy your own oPhone for $149 (£90)).

oPhone video (French subtitles) Blake Armstrong

The team began developing the oPhone a few years back as an experiment in new ways to experience smell. The current version features two cylindrical gadgets that work in tandem to deliver you bursts of scents for 10 seconds at a time. To do that, you first have to download the oSnap app. Then you take a picture of, say, creme brulee. Inside oSnap you can tag the image with any of the 32 scents, which will initially focus on food and coffee aromas. These scents can be combined into more than 300,000 different smells. In the case of your creme brulee, you might want to choose something like malty caramel and brown sugar. After you tag this photo, it gets sent to your friend who will be able to smell those notes via the oPhone. Each oPhone is equipped with oChips, little cartridges that contain all of the scent information that disperse odours when air is spun over them.

The catch is, no one will have an oPhone until next spring. Initially, to smell your notes you’ll have to travel to one of three hot spots, though Edwards plans to expand oPhone hot spots throughout the year. The first is at Le Laboratorie in Paris. The next will be at the Natural History Museum in New York City, where the device will be used to showcase the evolution of smell in animals and humans. Edwards plans to have another oPhone hot spot at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, location of Le Laboratoire once it opens this October.

“Inside oSnap you can tag the image with any of the 32 scents, which will initially focus on food and coffee aromas.”

An untapped sense

Edwards believes aroma is a natural evolution in the way we communicate with each other. In fact, he says, it’s been a glaring omission for a while now. Scent is strongly linked to memory and emotion. When we send texts or look at photos, we’re only getting part of the emotional payload. “An olfactory signal delivers a much stronger emotional and physiological impact than a visual or auditory signal,” he says. “I say to you croissant, and you say ‘Oh, that sounds good,’ but you smell it and you’re hungry.”

This initial period is more of a massive focus group than the definitive version of what the oPhone will be. Edwards images the next year as a time where he and his team will learn how people might actually want to use something like the oPhone. “You and I are on a phone right now and we have the phone next to our ear and we kind of know how to talk on the phone,” he says. “But people do not know, but will learn how, to listen to aroma messages and how to interact with the device. Right now we’re interested in learning about user behaviour.”

Admittedly, the early versions of the oPhone are fairly limited in scope if you’re not into coffee or taking photos of your food. But the partnership with the Natural History Museum shows that incorporating aroma into scenario can make for a much richer sensory experience in unexpected places. The oPhone’s promise is obvious to marketers, but more important than that is how cool this could be once the technology shrinks down enough to put something like the oPhone in our pocket or embed it directly into our phone. Once that happens, and the catalog of smells becomes robust enough to include the aromas of something more personal like the musty smell of a pickup truck or the scent of a warm summer afternoon, the applications start to become much more exciting.

This article originally appeared on Wired.com

Wired UK

Editors Note: Flop or Not you decide, would you buy one? comment below…

Ukraine: Right Sector pickets Prosecutor General Office

Ihor Mazur (left), a spokesperson for demonstrators, speaks to reporters on June 17 outside the Prosecutor General's office in Kyiv. Nearly 100 demonstrators came to demand that old-regime officials be removed from the prosecutorial government body.Ihor Mazur (left), a spokesperson for demonstrators, speaks to reporters on June 17 outside the Prosecutor General’s office in Kyiv. Nearly 100 demonstrators came to demand that old-regime officials be removed from the prosecutorial government body. © William Schreiber

On June 17, a demonstration at the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office – organized by Right Sector and what’s left of security and defense units of the EuroMaidan Revolution – stole the spotlight from the state attorney, who had to cancel a scheduled press conference on the government’s corruption-fighting efforts.

Absence of systemic change in the wake of the 100-day popular uprising that ousted the corrupt regime of fugitive ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, close to 100 activists affiliated with the history-changing movement came to the rally. A spokesman for the demonstrators said that the lack of reform over the past two months highlights the need to rid the prosecutorial body of old-regime officials.

“The prosecutor’s office is one of the most conservative state institutions today in Ukraine,” said Ihor Mazur, spokesman for the demonstrations. Mazur singled out the Kyiv Prosectuor’s office in particular, which he says has remained unchanged since the Yanukovych administration.

Although the group was aware of the anti-corruption briefing, the protesters said it did not directly relate to the content of the postponed announcement. A Justice Ministry spokesman said the briefing would likely be rescheduled.

The protests were coordinated with a similar action in front of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature. There, demonstrators called for pre-term parliamentary elections.

Kyiv Post intern William Schreiber can be reached at william.schreiber@yale.edu.

Kyiv Post

Ukraine suspects gas pipeline blast was a terrorist attack

Interior Ministry Arsen Avakov (L) said: Interior Ministry Arsen Avakov (L) said: “Several theories of what happened are being considered including the key theory – an act of terrorism.” Earlier The Energy Ministry said that it was not the first attempted terrorist attack on the Ukrainian gas transportation system. © Anastasia Vlasova

Ukraine said on June 17 it was treating an explosion on a pipeline carrying Russian natural gas to the rest of Europe as a possible “act of terrorism”, intended to discredit Ukraine as a reliable supplier. The government, which is facing a rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine, said the blast in central Ukraine – one day after Russia cut gas supplies to Kyiv In a pricing dispute – did not disrupt gas flows to the European Union.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement which described the blast, which sent a plume of dark smoke high into the sky over central Ukraine, as “the latest attempt by the Russian side to discredit Ukraine as a partner in the gas sector”.

“Several theories of what happened are being considered including the key theory – an act of terrorism,” Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in the statement, posted on the ministry’s website.

“According to local residents, they heard two big bangs just before the explosion which could indicate they were deliberate explosions,” he said of the incident in the Ukraine’s Poltava region.

The Energy Ministry also suggested there may have been foul play, saying it was “not the first attempted terrorist attack on the Ukrainian gas transportation system.”

There was no immediate comment from Moscow or the rebels who rose up in eastern Ukraine, many of them hoping Russia would absorb the region following its annexation of Crimea in March.


Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told parliament in Kiev that Moscow had blocked attempts to reach a deal in the long-running dispute over the price Ukraine should pay for Russian natural gas and Kiev’s unpaid bills.

“It is part of a plan that envisages a whole series of measures aimed at destroying Ukrainian independence and statehood,” he said, listing the annexation of Crimea, “destabilizing” of eastern Ukraine and backing of the rebels.

“They still cannot understand that Ukraine is an independent state, and it is no matter of Russia to define where we should go. And we are going in the direction of the European Union,” he said.

Moscow has blamed Kiev for the failure to reach agreement, with big differences remaining over the price.

Ukraine has said it will try to restore control of the border with Russia to prevent further violence.

But Tuesday’s explosion was far from the violence in east Ukraine, where border guards said 30 servicemen had been wounded in an overnight mortar attack near the border.

The Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline, which was hit by the blast, is the main transit route for Russian gas to the EU via Ukraine. Police said the blast on the pipeline happened about two metres (six feet) below ground.

Ukrainian state-run gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz said there was no disruption to the gas flow. Emergency services said the blast was caused by the pipeline becoming depressurised, though it did not say what had caused that to happen.

In Moscow, the Rossiya-24 channel said a Russian reporter had been killed in Ukraine and his colleague was missing after their position was shelled in clashes near the eastern city of Luhansk.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the death of Igor Konelyuk, 37, showed the “criminal nature” of a military operation launched against the rebels by the Ukrainian government and urged the authorities in Kiev to investigate.

Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk in Moscow; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Robin Pomeroy.


Blast hits gas pipeline in central Ukraine, police say

The pipeline is an area that is far from the violence that has rocked east Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have risen up against central rule.The pipeline is an area that is far from the violence that has rocked east Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have risen up against central rule. © Courtesy

An explosion hit a gas transit pipeline in the central Ukrainian region of Poltava on June 17, police said, but a source at Russian gas producer Gazprom said the blast in central Ukraine has not disrupted the gas flow to Europe.

The video shows the explosion has occurred on the Urengoi-Pomary-Uzhgorod gas pipeline in the Lokhvytsia district of the Poltava region of Ukraine.

“At 14.20 (1120 GMT) we received information about an explosion on the pipeline in a field between two small villages,” a police spokeswoman in the central Ukrainian region of Poltava said by telephone.

“Action to put out the fire is coming to an end,” she said, adding that there were no casualties.

Police said the affected pipeline was the Urengoy–Pomary–Uzhgorod, a major supply route for gas being transported through Ukraine to the European Union.

“We cannot say anything at the moment, because it is an area of ​​responsibility of Ukrtransgaz (Ukraine’s state gas transport monopoly),” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said.

But a Gazprom source said: “Exports have not been cut. There is a parallel pipeline.”

Ukrtransgaz did not immediately comment.

The pipeline is an area that is far from the violence that has rocked east Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have risen up against central rule. Russia has cut off Ukraine’s gas supplies in a pricing dispute but Kiev has said it will keep gas flowing to the rest of Europe.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk in Moscow, Editing by Timothy Heritage


Westinghouse chips away at Russian nuclear fuel monopoly in Ukraine

The Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Mykolaiv OblastThe Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Mykolaiv Oblast © Courtesy

During a routine inspection of the Yuzhnoukrainsk nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, Mykolaiv Oblast in 2012, the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation “discovered” that the plant’s fuel assemblies (which provide support for nuclear rods in the plant’s reactor) were scratched, and therefore unusable.

Westinghouse Electric, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based producer of the fuel assemblies, protested the Inspectorate’s decision, arguing that Russian fuel (produced by state-owned nuclear power company TVEL) was chaffing, and thereby permanently damaging their fuel assemblies.

Despite Westinghouse’s protestations, regulators banned the use of the company’s fuel assemblies in Ukrainian plants, disrupting a contract between Westinghouse and the National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine (Energoatom) signed in 2008, and making TVEL the sole supplier of nuclear fuel to Ukraine.

Considering the lack of evidence to support the regulators’ claims, the decision seems likely to have been politically motivated. Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration was famously cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and may have been interested in preserving TVEL’s nuclear fuel monopoly, experts say.

That in April, less than two months after Yanukovych’s fall from power, Energoatom decided to extend its contract with Westinghouse to provide fuel to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, suggests that the regulators’ claims may have been falsified.

Serhiy Bozhko, the Head of the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation said in a June 12 interview with news website Liga Biznes that the problems with Westinghouse’s fuel assemblies were related to “the fuel loading, not to their use.”

The new contract, which extends the deal between Energoatom and Westinghouse until 2020, stipulates that Westinghouse provide fuel for two of Ukraine’s 15 reactors each year, with the possibility of providing fuel for more in the future.

The deal, which is rumored to be worth $100 million, gives Westinghouse an opportunity to use a new fuel assembly designed in January 2015, and appears to be an important step towards energy security for Ukraine.

Michael Kirst, Westinghouse’s Vice President for Strategy and External Relations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, told the Kyiv Post on June 17 that the deal is important because it undermines TVEL’s monopoly in Ukraine, which poses a threat to the country’s energy independence.

Half of Ukraine’s electricity comes from nuclear power. Because Ukraine’s plants are powered by Russian fuel produced by a state-owned company, politics could easily become intertwined with nuclear energy, as it has with natural gas.

“If several reactors are not running, the whole Ukrainian grid is destabilized. You could have rolling blackouts,” warns Kirst.

Although the gas disputes are currently grabbing headlines, he says, the Ukrainian government is “going to have to come to grips with the need to secure nuclear energy.”

Kirst believes that Kyiv’s protracted gas dispute with Moscow may force Ukraine’s leaders to do just that.

“The gas crisis is going to generate lots of different decisions, one of which will presumably be an entire portfolio review of energy security, writ large. Gas is only one part of the solution to diversify and secure. Ignoring [Nuclear power] would be mistake,” he said.

Westinghouse was able to enter the Ukrainian nuclear power industry in part because of investment from the U.S. government, which paid for the design, manufacture, and delivery of fuel to be used in Russian reactors in Central and Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This gave countries with Russian reactors an alternative to Russian fuel, a move designed to provide energy security on the continent.

American investment, Kirst says, was one of the reasons Westinghouse has remained in Ukraine, despite difficulties with the government, and a turbulent business environment.

“We felt that there was a real corporate obligation to try to stick with it to allow Ukraine and other countries to have this opportunity if and when they needed it,” he said. “And of course today seems to represent that day when they need it.”

Kyiv Post Staff Writer Isaac Webb can be reached at isaac.d.webb@gmail.com and on Twitter.

Kyiv Post


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