A new technology called oPhone, developed by David Edwards and colleagues at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, may be used for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and mental illness. The oPhone enables odors to be sent via email, tweet or text to other oPhones using Bluetooth and smartphone attachments.
“The oPhone works like a phone for odors. It delivers complex compositions of odors remotely and in a very personal intimate way, in the manner of a standard telephone. Only here the ‘words’ are aromas,” Edwards told Medical News Today. “This is not just to deliver one odor, but to deliver a sequence of odors, as may happen when you enjoy a meal, or a walk through the forest, or a city.” When the first product launches, there will be over 300 scents, but in the future, there could be 500,000 or more.
The aim with the oPhone is to produce a sensory experience. Edwards believes, even more importantly, that this technology could be used to help those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses. He believes it could help restore a person’s memory. “We know that olfaction is a strong stimulator of memory, and of course tightly related to taste sensation. For those dealing with memory loss, or the chance of it, or for those dealing with recovery of mental function, the ability to deliver complex odor sequences coupled with visual signals is an exciting opportunity to improve mental health,” Edwards said. Further research is needed and the oPhone is set to be tested within the next year.