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Teleporting Scent

March 25, 2024
Alex Wiltschko


  • being able to smell the lilies that grew near your childhood home from anywhere in the world.
  • visiting the Sistine Chapel and sending a loved one back home the scent of old paint and plaster.
  • watching a movie about sailors lost at sea and smelling the saltwater throughout the theater.
  • capturing the scent of your soon-to-be-husband on your wedding day, so you can savor that moment forever.

This is the promise of Scent Teleportation, a technology that captures a smell in one part of the world and releases it in another. While this may sound like speculative futurism, an early version of it is already becoming a technological reality in our labs at Osmo.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before this technology can outgrow the lab and become a new way of connecting people. But at Osmo this long goal already serves as a guiding vision of what digitizing scent could mean in the future.

So then: what do we mean by Scent Teleportation? How does it work, and what needs to happen for it to become a user-friendly technology? How could it change the way we experience the world?

How it works

Much of the digital world as we know it today is the result of teaching computers how to see and hear. Our goal at Osmo is to do the same for scent — making it easy to record, analyze, and reproduce scents with environmentally friendly molecules. Scent Teleportation encapsulates this ideal in an elegant process. A sensor picks up the scent of a lavender field. A processor identifies all the molecules at work. The printer finds the right combination of scents to reproduce it. And soon, a New York lab smells like a purple patch of California.

We can already do this for many scents, but all the steps still require manual guidance.  

Here’s how it works: The lavender must be contained so its scent can be captured. A molecular sensor, called a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (or GC/MS) identifies the molecules at work and — using Osmo's proprietary AI and scent map — generates a formula ready for teleportation. Finally, the scent can be recreated using a specialized printer, roughly the size of a refrigerator. 

This is a significant first step towards teleporting all the world’s scents. Our next goal will be to teleport a combination of smells, such as a blend of apple, lavender, and honeycomb. The greater challenge going forward will be to scale up performance while scaling down the steps: reducing human intervention until none is required; shrinking the size and cost of the components until they’re fully portable. By then, our technology will have transcended laboratory settings, ready to become a part of everyday life.

Why it Matters

This ambitious project is a formidable technological challenge, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Luckily, each intermediate step represents its own breakthrough, with applications beyond sending scents across the globe.

An AI-guided sensor capable of identifying the molecular makeup of any scent would be a bottomless source of data. It would, in effect, unlock a new dataset for training AI systems. This would be especially valuable in an age of copyright-based data scarcity. On the other end of Teleportation, the printer builds on our efforts to find the simplest ways to reproduce any existing scent. Each of these technologies is fascinating in its own right, but fused into a single process, they offer a concentrated whiff of a more complete digital future.

All this may sound quirky at first, but its ramifications are profound. Digitizing scent would mean re-sensitizing the digital world, while bringing a much wider array of authentic scents into the physical realm. Giving us newfound mastery over the world of scents, it would revolutionize our relationship to our oldest and most emotionally resonant sense.

Imagine a future where millions of people capture and share scents, or remix those scents to create their own. This would turn scent creation, still the sole purview of a select few master perfumers, into a public art form. That’s not to mention what it would mean for the fragrance industry, adding a vibrant new dimension to personalized scents.

As you can see, Scent Teleportation is about more than just digitizing scent. It's about enriching our digital experiences, reconnecting us with our senses, and redefining what it means to be human in a digital age. We look forward to presenting it to you in the near future.