New Cell Phone Fights Bad Breath

Smelly Innovations for a Better Future

Oct. 5, 2004 — Your eyes and ears have been TiVo-ed, Xbox-ed and iPod-ed into oblivion. Now, science and industry are turning to our most underappreciated sensory tool — the nose.

On Monday, two American scientists — Richard Axel and Linda Buck — won the Nobel Prize for medicine for gene studies that explained how the human sense of smell functions.

"The sense of smell long remained the most enigmatic of our senses," said the Nobel Assembly in the award citation.

In an age when your eyes and ears are constantly under assault, the business world is learning that the quickest way to a consumer's heart might be through his nose. Let's look at a few products:

1. Got Bad Breath? It's Your Call: Soon you'll be able to check your voice mail and your breath at the same time. A German telecommunications company announced last month that it is developing a cell phone with a tiny sensor chip that will alert users if they've got bad breath or offensive body odor.

"It examines the air in the immediate vicinity for anything from bad breath and alcohol to atmospheric gas levels," a spokeswoman for Siemens Mobile told Reuters. "Some people take smelling good rather seriously."

How will this change romance? Instead of discreetly offering your date a piece of gum, you might just ask if he or she wants to check phone messages. Siemens might be advised to equip its new phones with a Tic Tac dispenser.

2. Smart Perfume: How much perfume is too much? A girl can count on her mother to tell her. A woman must depend on her own judgment — but not for much longer, perhaps, thanks to an experimental micro perfume dispenser.

In April, British design company PDD unveiled the prototype of a tiny, wearable device known as SNIF (Sexy New Intelligent Fragrance). Attach it to your clothing and it releases perfume based on the environment you're in — low output in a confined space like a car, high output on an open dance floor.

Perhaps when SNIF hits the market, it will have a special feature to pump out extra fragrance when a lady wants to be noticed — and a special skunk-like repellant when approached by an annoying, icky guy.

3. The Odor-Eating Lightbulb: The dark age of fighting bacteria, mold and fungi may be over. In January, two Florida inventors introduced the world's first odor-eating lightbulb.

O-Zone Lites, recently featured in Popular Science, are fluorescent bulbs with a titanium dioxide coating that are said to kill micro-organisms that cause odors, purifying the air of last night's Chinese takeout or your kitty's litter box.

A smelly pet might start smelling pretty good, however, when you hear that O-Zone Lites cost nearly $40 for a bulb. You and your kitty might just be happier to reek in the darkness.

4. Anti-Flatulence Seat Cushion: Is flatulent Uncle Phil coming to visit? Time to pull out the GasMedic seat cushion — a carbon-filtered device designed to save you from the "smell, noise and embarrassment" linked to flatulence.

Think of GasMedic as the anti-whoopee cushion. Each model comes with a foam muffler and replaceable filter, and they're available, for under $30, in a variety of colors and patterns, to let you pass gas in the home, office, theater or airplane, without being too conspicuous.

5. Self-Perfuming Suits: If you work all day, party all night, and don't do the laundry often, a $400, self-perfuming suit, made of a special scratch-and-sniff fabric, might be the answer to your fashion needs.