DJing With Scents: Scenthesizer

Usually the funk you find on a dance floor comes directly from the sweat of the attendees – but the Scenthesizer project aims to put the control of the the smells on the dance floor in the hands of the DJ behind the decks. Yep, it sounds like an April Fool’s Day joke, but the project is real – sponsored by Heineken and engineered by Singapore-based AllSense, makers of “scent delivery systems”.

Watch the teaser video below and then read some of the technical details beyond that:

The Scenthesizer team did one of their first public events back in October (a few photos cropped up on Facebook), but we still couldn’t quite make out exactly what was going on – so I reached out directly to AllSense to get the low down behind the system and how it works.

How does the Scenthesizer work from a technical standpoint?

[We] provided this system. It was a custom build for the client. Some of the details we have to unfortunately keep confidential. Scent can be delivered on cue by sending power to the outlet the system is plugged into or an I/O interface can be used to tell the systems to turn on or open valves.

There are 3 ways to construct a scent experience for an event:

  • One way is to separate the top, mid and base notes, and let the DJ mix these together
  • The second is to work off pre-selected compositions and let them blend in and out between tracks or sets
  • The third is to use a blast effect to shoot out a few scents at key moments
One of the scent delivery system's core modules
One of the scent delivery system’s core modules

What types of smells are possible? 

We worked off a catalogue of 1,700 fragrances which was rounded down to a core 6 compositions. Each composition can be broken down into top, mid and base notes. Some of the compositions:

  • Cool Mints, Peppermint, Spearmint and Vanilla
  • Aromatic Citrus and Green notes, hits you like a clean refreshing expression after a spring rain
  • Citrus and Marine notes on top of Mediterranean lavender and Geranium with Sandalwood, White Amber and Crystal Musk

Compositions are richer, deeper, more complex arrangements of scent notes and as you take punters through the sensory journey of the evening you get pulled deeper into the scents (like a story with twists and turns). With single notes, there is a risk that if you don’t use enough notes, the composition could turn out as thin, bland and ‘identifiable’. With ‘identifiable’ this will work where you want the audience to know they are smelling say for instance ‘pink grapefruit’. The theme of this event we worked on called for more mysterious compositions that didn’t reveal individual notes.

We have scent options everything from Fresh Cut Grass to Tobacco Flower or Vanilla Bourbon, from Agave Cactus to Sugar Cookie, Weed (yes, that one) to Wood Fire. We also have some nasties which we developed for the Military to help create immersive simulation training exercises, so if you want to clear the room super fast, dry a blast of skunk, rotting garbage or burning building. Yup, burning building. We also have burning vehicle.

The DJ's interface on an iPad (left), and a photo from inside one of the events.
The DJ’s interface on an iPad (left), and a photo from inside one of the events.

Was this just for fun, or does it have potential to become a commercial product? 

We are in the final stages of testing a market ready plug and play system for DJs. We would be interested to know from your readers what kinds of scent products or turn key solutions they would be interested in to create a more multi-sensory experience for shows.

After hearing from AllSense, we’re about 90% positive that this project is really happening and not some elaborate joke – DJs really could be controlling the smells in Ibiza and Vegas (instead of the CO2 cannons) in the coming years. Is it realistic to implement on a wide scale? We’re not sure, but it’s bound to be better than Smell-O-Vision.

  • pdillo

    that… is… so… so… dumb…

  • Joey

    Dubstep is going to smell like a gigantic fart

  • Cody

    I think the idea could be very cool, provided its used sparingly and the smells don’t overwhelm you from the second you get past the bouncer. Like someone said earlier though, scent is a huge memory trigger, so it could add a whole new sensory dimension to the experience if done tastefully. If only hipsters didn’t like complaining about chemicals so much…

  • Chaser720

    Where is the pricing point going to be at on this one? I could see a couple hundred to a couple grand being equally as likely.

  • Mad Zach

    I thought of this like 10 years ago whatever yo

    • Mad Zach

      😉

  • Oddie O’Phyle

    The sense of smell is a power memory trigger. Imagine peeling an orange and the smell of it triggers a memory of a great drop into a track like superflu – reeves or getting rid of the winter “blues” at a “party” by blasting the crowd with fresh cut grass or Mediterranean lavender.

    • zzzuperfly

      so then a generation of poor sods will associate lemons with levels…

  • Scentman

    Cool thing! I spread scents as a live act, aromajockey Scentman. I take good care that scent’s are safe for people. Like bio essential oils or other tested oils. Most people love to smell a good scent now and then. The art is to do it on the right time in the right amounth. And you can’t make everybody happy, that’s also the case with music, lights…etc.

  • Terry Jacobson

    Smell is all around us. Every time we inhale we smell something. Smell is right brain. All emotion and memory. At the end of the day its another tool you can use to define a theme or set a mood. Just like music and lighting. Smell is instinct and carnal. You cant turn it off.

    Any gig you work already has smell – smoke machines, beer breath, farts, redbull and the chick next to you wearing perfume.

    Read Rachel Herz on Michael Hutchence (INXS) and the link between his loss of smell and suicide. Power

    Nobody is saying go overboard or ignore sensitivities. If you do this, do it tastefully. Tie it into your audience and your concept

  • Anon

    If I ever have to SmellJ (is that what were gonna call it now?) for a crappy-ass “Beatport Top100core” DJ, I’ll make sure to do my part as a TRUE SmellJ to ensure that the eromas of shit and bro-stench permeate da club

  • ArkA-9

    Or I could just continue to buy scents that go in my smoke machine fluid…

  • Kutmaster TeeOh

    WTF….SMDH

  • I assure you I am not a hippy

    hummmmmmm I won’t eat GM fruit or veg and tend to grow quite a substantial amount of my own organic veg that lasts my family most of the year, we only eat free range eggs / meat / traceable I don’t drink water with fluoride in it or fizzy drinks like coke. I haven’t eaten fast food in years. Now I mean I will make french fries out of my own spuds and am fond of the odd pack of chips or some chocolate but you got to be joking me if you think I would go to a club and enjoy being sprayed with some sort of vaporised chemical shit. If I’m in Ibiza in a sweaty mess in DC10 I think I would have well and truly had my fill of chemicals up my nose without having to smell some vanilla sandalwood concoction. No thank you, the smoking ban meant we didn’t have to breath in cancer all night. I don’t want to feel like im in a bed bath and beyond when im dancing and talking shit to strangers.

  • Kai

    This is great… for everyone except the 25% of the population with moderate-to-severe scent allergies

    • Maxwel

      sweat is worse for all people not only 25%

  • czero

    look! a solution in search of a problem. no thanks.

  • Marcin

    Why?

    • RandomGuy

      The Question is not “Why?” but, Why the hell not.

    • Maxwel

      yea why not??

      • Maxwel

        i find it soo cool project and gonna add more to the club so why not?