Pyjamas for transglobal hugs, mobile phones you can taste and smell messages – all in a day’s work for Finsbury professor

Professor Adrian Cheok

Professor Adrian Cheok - Credit: Archant

Pyjamas that let you hug someone from the other side of the world, mobile phones that let you taste things and an app that lets you send smells to your friends are just three of the pioneering inventions by a Finsbury scientist.

The gadget emits smells from the phone

The gadget emits smells from the phone - Credit: Archant

Professor Adrian Cheok moved to the pervasive computing department at City University, in Northampton Square, last year and has been breaking new ground with technology to let people use all five senses over the internet.


His latest invention – a revolutionary device which lets people smell a famous Spanish restaurant’s dishes on their phones – was unveiled last month but the professor says that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

He said: “I was working with augmented reality for 15 years, but I wanted to move on from just audio visual to a full sensory experience. The first thing we worked on was touch. We developed pyjamas that give you a hug when someone else holds a teddy bear.

“Then we worked on rings that create the effect of holding hands with someone even if you are in London and they are in Tokyo.”

Moving on from tactile technology, Professor Cheok and his team began to work on the other senses. The new device – called Scentee – plugs into the end of a phone and uses a tiny motor to emit a waft of convincing chemical-based odour.

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But the academic – who is from a Malaysisan and Australian background – is already developing the next generation.

“Using chemicals limits things, because you can’t send them over the internet. In future it has to be done via electric signals.

“For taste, by using different amplitude and frequency vibrations we can bypass the taste buds – the receptor cells on the surface of the tongue – and excite the cells underneath, which go straight to the brain. These could be transmitted to a device like a lollipop.

“For smell, it’s a bit more complicated because we can’t connect directly olfactory bulbs [smell sensors], but we are working on system to use electromagnetic pulses to send the signals from a device you wear like a gumshield.

“Then you would be able to send people smell messages – maybe a floral smell if you were in a good mood or a bitter scent if you weren’t feeling so happy.”