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.

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