The olfactory artist Peter De Cupere creates in order to heighten awareness of the under-appreciated sense. It was love at first smell when we stumbled upon De Cupere's recent multi-sensory exhibition, complete with a sweat-drenched wall, tear-inducing dome infused with pepper and an instrument called an "olfactiano" that plays smells instead of notes.
We were thrilled, though not quite surprised, to hear of De Cupere's newest project, "Olfacio" (Latin for "smell"). The first scent recognition app employs sniffs scratch-and-sniff cards, combining two distinct smells to create a hybrid odor and a corresponding botanical drawing, depicting plants that would be more comfortable in a fantasy novel than in a textbook. We hunted down De Cupere to find out more about his dedication to the sense of scent. Scroll down for images of the app.
Huffington Post: How did you decide it was time to make an app dedicated to odor?
Peter De Cupere: I always had a dream, even as a little boy like a lot of young people do, and now I saw the opportunity to make this dream come true. We created after six months intensive work, "Olfacio," the first scent recognition app for the iPad. At first, we couldn't believe it ourselves, that we had really managed to create it, but the proof is there. The app is real magic, it smells the cards and there's no image recognition used. It smells! You scratch and sniff two cards and lay them on the iPad. The Smell incubator recognizes the smells and mixes them together to create a completely new flower based on the two scents. Scratch the cards once more and the created flower will always look different in form. Even if you don't scratch the cards, it still recognizes the smell, but it's more exciting to scratch them to create an even more wonderful creation. The scent intensity and the combination of which smell defines the appearance of the flower.
HP: What are examples of some of the visualized smells?
PDC: There are 10 different olfacio flowers [and] the flowers refer to the smells. So is the flower "Olfacio Rubus Idaeus Fruticosus Flores" is a refence to raspberry. On the cards is a description of what the smell is -- for this example you read "Slippery, jelly and Melting" and that is also exactly what the flower looks like. When you lay the same flower on the smell incubator on the iPad two times, you get an digital image of what this flower looks like. But the most exciting part is, of course, making mixes with the smells. I'm not going to tell all the fragrances that are used. It's important the user uses his/her imagination. The smells are on the back of the cards and this back looks the same for all the cards so there's no image recognition involved. It's just smell!
Not all the fragrances smell good. There is, for example, the smell of smoke which gives a beautiful image when mixed with other scents. Or if you're curious what a flower made of earth would look like, just try it out, I would say.
HP: What is one of your favorite smells at the moment?
PDC: I'm interested in all smells, good and bad, but I don't love them all. I have a lot of favorite smells. I like the smell of skin, especially when it's from a gorgeous woman, but also men can smell great -- it's just the way how you look at it.
People should smell more. People should learn to smell good things in life. People should enjoy the smell of their partner more. But looking is not enough, smelling also not -- it's the combination of things in life that makes it more enjoyable.
See "Olfacio" in action in the slideshow below, and watch a video explanation here: