Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

jeudi 13 mai 2004

Cosmetics companies and retail malls have discovered the power of smell a long time ago. It can evoke emotions or trigger your buying decision. Several attempts have been made to add this sense of smell to e-mail messages or Internet browsing, but with a very limited success. Now, a new initiative targets wine lovers. On the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) booth at next month Londonís Wine and Spirits Fair, visitors "will be able to smell the many aromas from Burgundyís wine region over the internet," reports the Scotsman in "Delicate aroma of wine from a computer near you." When the user is connected, a special software recognized certain tags when clicked upon and releases specific fragrances from a hand-held diffuser attached to the computer. These devices should be available on the consumer market by the end of this year.

Here are some details.

A pioneering device invented in France -- usually regarded as the bastion of tradition in such matters -- claims to give [expert tasters] the ability to pick up the subtle nuances of a fine wine from the comfort of their personal computer.
Later this month, at Londonís Wine and Spirits Fair, visitors will be able to smell the many aromas from Burgundyís wine region over the internet, thanks to new technology piloted by the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) -- the areaís organisation of growers and exporters.
The technology emits scents via a hand-held diffuser which is connected to the computer. Once the user connects to a suitable website, a special software detects certain tags, which release the fragrances from the peripheral device.

The BIVB teamed up with France Telecom, the French phone giant, to develop the technology.

The technology used by the BIVB is based on France Telecomís Exhalia project [Note: the site has only a French version for the moment]. This aims to add a "fourth dimension" to internet use -- the sense of smell. It has so far been used for perfumes in trials.
Given its success BIVB developed the technology to include the smell of wine. This was first exhibited in Lille a few months ago and according to Ms Picard was a tremendous success.

Jancis Robinson, the author of The Oxford Companion to Wine, tested the device. Here are his thoughts.

I can quite see a slightly scary sounding 1984 world where people stop buying wine and get the smells from their computers, but it would be a slight shame. For me, a major part of wineís great appeal is the promotion of sociability really.
The nose is only one element, you wouldnít be able to tell tannin level or alcohol level or sweetness level, one would just get the flavour."

This kind of device should be available soon.

The diffuser costs around £20 but at the moment it is unavailable in the UK, although there are plans to introduce it into Britain in the long term.

For more information about the technology, France Telecom provides some Flash multimedia animations. Here are the links to a version with sound and to a silent one. Both are in French.

Sources: William Lyons, The Scotsman, May 10, 2004; Exhalia website

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