We checked out The World’s First “Aroma Speaker” at CES 2024

It projects audio as well as over 100 different unique scents. The creators, Aroma Join, say that developers can customize their own scents and use an SDK (scent development kit?) to create specific experiences that combine video with smell to make a much more immersive overall experience.

As I entered Showstoppers, I walked past the exhibitors, even past the food buffet (which didn’t have a smell, to be frank), but was stopped dead in my tracks when I smelled a distinct salted caramel scent coming from somewhere. I looked around and saw a sign that said “Digital Scent Technology” two meters away from me. At the booth sat two rather gorgeous glossy-red speakers, and a screen that displayed a looped video of different sceneries. The folks at Aroma Join were debuting their “Aroma Speaker 60” for the first time – a speaker capable of projecting both sound and scent up to distances of 6.5 feet.

Designer: AromaJoin

The metaverse, or at least its initial stages, has always focused on just three things – sight, sound, and touch. If you’re wondering why metaverse experiences (or spatial ones, for Apple lovers) aren’t highly immersive, it’s because your brain uses a combination of inputs from all your senses together. Leave out one or more, and the experience feels less believable… Designer Jinsop Lee has a very interesting TED Talk on this too. What the Aroma Speaker 60 does is plug that gap in a way. By shooting both audio as well as aromas, it subconsciously tricks your brain into believing what it sees. You’ll see a grassy field and feel more relaxed, even if you don’t know it. Or if you see food, your mind will make your tongue salivate.

Scent-firing devices have been around for a decade now, but if you listen to anyone who’s tried them, they’ll all tell you the same thing. The technology isn’t completely there yet. I stood alongside industry veteran Vincent Nguyen and his first reaction was “this isn’t like the stuff we’ve seen before”. The Aroma Speaker does a few things incredibly well. It hyper-targets an area and shoots scents really far (up to 6-7 feet). That’s enough to catch your attention even if you aren’t paying attention. The smells are distinct, powerful, and VERY dynamic… by which I mean when a scene on the TV or monitor chances, the old scent vanishes and a new scent appears almost instantly.

Although the technology is a bit of a black box (they won’t tell us how it works), it boils down to a set of aroma modules that sit in each individual speaker unit, totaling 10 modules in two speakers. Each module is equipped with 6 cartridges that have essential oils of some sort. The speaker (and the software on the laptop) use those 6 cartridges as the building blocks for scents, creating as many as 60 different distinct scents. Sure, the speakers fire audio too, but it’s the fragrances that really set it apart.

The folks at AromaJoin have figured out how to precisely blend these 6 base fragrances to create an entire gamut of aromas – both pleasant and unpleasant. The scented caramel aroma was almost too strong, but the floral aromas were wonderful, the speaker even generated a petrichor aroma as the laptop display showed an endless green field. The scene then switched to a polluted city and you could instantly smell the smoke. The fragrances weren’t a 100% exact (your mind can somewhat tell that they’re artificial), but they fell well within their ballpark.

AromaJoin isn’t currently selling these speakers but is using them as a proof of concept to lure developers and marketers into building out the ecosystem. They’ve got an open-source app and SDK that allows people to build scent profiles for their video content, and with time, hopefully, AromaJoin will have an entire library that then makes the Aroma Speaker 60 a much more lucrative buy. Until that happens, the company IS selling its VR accessory, the Aroma Shooter Wearable 3, a neck-worn device that works in tandem with headsets like the Meta Quest 3 to help make the metaverse more immersive and multisensory.