Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 | Author: Konrad Voelkel
When I woke up from a dream, I instantly had this idea: What would a file format for odours look like?
I admit: this is one of the most absurd posts ever...
On searching "smell file format", the results are really absurd, too.
But this way, I came across this strange patent for digital cameras that don't only capture pictures or videos but smells, too. Now you would think of a real odour-capture-device, but this patent suggests just a user interface to set one odour out of a list of pre-defined odours. The purpose of such a technique is clear: you can later display the image along the odour via a dispenser. Yeah ... everybody has been waiting for this.
Of course, an "odour" is just a collection of molecules, since the human nose is a detector for chemicals in the air. Maybe you have never thought about this, but fishes in deep sea orientate by odour instead of light. So, an odour file format would be almost the same as any molecule file format. Maybe one could get a good file compression by knowing which molecules can be detected by the human nose and which can't. That would be something like the list of pre-defined odours list in the patent above.
I'm pretty sure that, if it doesn't exist today, there will be an odour file format one day.
Then I searched (again, out of curiosity) for such a dictionary which lists all smells humans can detect, together with their molecular composition. I wasn't that successful, but at least some nice results:
- Fantastic Flavours has some nice articles about some of the most interesting flavours, with many links pointing to more information. Surely interesting for anyone who likes cooking, wine, coffee, tea, fruits, ...
- The LRI & Odour database is funny to browse, too. For example, you can look for "banana" and see that bananas contain some chemicals that are also contained in melons.
- The Flavornet lists many flavours (most flavours are odours). Very interesting: the odour classes (there is a Maillard class, for example. The Maillard reaction is the chemical reaction that makes roasted food so tasty). Beware: the Flavornet crashed my Firefox, I had to use Chrome to get it working.