The future of mobile: Smart watches and sweet smelling mobiles

November 22, 2013 by Adrian David Cheok, City University London
The future of mobile: Smart watches and sweet smelling mobiles

As the mobile phone industry undergoes sweeping changes, Professor Adrian Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing, discusses smart watches, haptics and mobile phones that send text messages and sweet fragrances.

Smart watches and wearable computing

Recently, we've seen wrist watch devices produced by the likes of Sony and Samsung. The concept is hardly new. If you look at science fiction on television from the 1950s through to the 1970s, there was always the 'watch communicator'. People have a desire for something wearable on the wrist. I think this form factor has been tried several times before but for the average consumer, it hasn't really taken off and I think even now, these devices are yet to become mainstream.

Compared with what you can do with a smartphone, the watch devices made by these are still much more inferior in their functionality. The real application is for the user to connect to their mobile phone. If you get a message on your phone or some kind of Twitter or Facebook alert, or instance, it shows up on your wrist. So right now these watches are really connections to your phone and calendar. Certainly, there is some value, but it isn't enough to justify one wearing a watch all of the time.

Mobile devices in the next five years

For several years I have been working on haptics - ways that people can produce touch through the internet. I have created hugging suits for parents and children, for instance, to embrace and hug each other at night time. What I want to do now is to try to make something that is small and very mobile with commercial applications. My haptic ring device, is another example. The basic idea is that we can now communicate through touch - physical touch rather than just text and audio visual means. Basically I can squeeze my ring and the person I am communicating with will also feel a squeeze on his finger. The other person's ring, who is another place, will see his ring light up and I will also feel a squeezed sensation in my finger. In this way we are bringing emotional and touch communication to .

Touch, taste and smell are senses that are directly connected to parts of our brain controlling emotions and memory and we can therefore produce new forms of emotional communication through technology. We have had enquiries from major multinational finance and IT companies for business applications. Busy investment bankers monitoring the stock markets, for example, who don't always have time to look at their screens, can receive different kinds of signals - pressure and various kinds of vibration patterns based on stock prices. They can wear a ring like this for 24 hours a day and be constantly updated with stock prices. Many kinds of applications including communications, business and entertainment can potentially use this technology.

Smell, touch, taste and phones

Smell and taste are the least used senses for communication over the internet. We have made a device enabling the user to receive a text message and produce a scent; we want people to not only send a fragrance with text but to also convey an emotion. A sweet smell, for instance, would be a positive emotion, while a rotten egg would be for a negative emotion. It is a truism that smell directly affects one's moods at a subconscious level so this kind of technology is important for bringing emotional communication to the internet.

You can also imagine that this could also open up possibilities for advertising products. We have had an enquiry from a company that makes frozen food; we cannot smell frozen food but if you can have this kind of device when you pick up the frozen food, it can connect to your phone and release a smell which makes buying such food more attractive for customers. We are also working with Mugaritz, one of the most famous restaurants in Spain, to bring their Michelin starred dining to the public. The best way to do this is to convey visuals of the dishes via phone together with the flavours and aroma of the cuisine. Touch and taste is important for allowing people to have a direct experience of something. It is difficult to describe smell with photographs or text. This is why I believe the devices I am developing will bring new kinds of entertainment, advertising, and communication via the internet and .

Explore further: Scentee makes your phone smell like a cinnamon roll or Korean BBQ when you get a text

Related Stories

Are smart watches the next big thing?

July 24, 2013

If you're like most Americans, you don't wear a wristwatch. But increasingly, electronics companies are betting you'll slap one on your wrist if it's more like a smartphone than a simple timepiece.

Review: Sony's smartwatch good, but not essential

November 14, 2013

Sony's new SmartWatch 2 doesn't get as much attention—and doesn't do as much—as Samsung's Galaxy Gear computerized wristwatch. But for the things it does, Sony's version performs better.

Android-powered watches get Internet savvy

January 12, 2012

The Internet was strapped to wrists at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday in the form of Android-powered "smart watches" that serve up online content along with telling time.

Samsung seeks smart watch trademarks in US, SKorea

August 7, 2013

Samsung Electronics Co. has applied for U.S. and South Korean trademarks for a watch that connects to the Internet in the latest sign that consumer technology companies see wearable devices as the future of their business.

Recommended for you

In colliding galaxies, a pipsqueak shines bright

February 20, 2019

In the nearby Whirlpool galaxy and its companion galaxy, M51b, two supermassive black holes heat up and devour surrounding material. These two monsters should be the most luminous X-ray sources in sight, but a new study using ...

When does one of the central ideas in economics work?

February 20, 2019

The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy ...

Research reveals why the zebra got its stripes

February 20, 2019

Why do zebras have stripes? A study published in PLOS ONE today takes us another step closer to answering this puzzling question and to understanding how stripes actually work.

Correlated nucleons may solve 35-year-old mystery

February 20, 2019

A careful re-analysis of data taken at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has revealed a possible link between correlated protons and neutrons in the nucleus and a 35-year-old mystery. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.