Finally, the Scratch-and-Sniff Cassettes Tapes You Crave Are Here

Jas Brooks and their team designed Smell & Paste, which is sort of like a View Master for scent.

Everyone remembers the scratch-and-sniff stickers from their youth and they elicit some serious nostalgia. Why were they popular? We have no idea. It is a weird way to experience smells. But everyone loved 'em. And while scratch-and-sniff stickers are still around, the experience has grown stale. What if you could use the same underlying friction-based scent technology to create a journey? That's what Jas Brooks and their University of Chicago team did with Smell & Paste, which is a sort of scratch-and-sniff cassette tape thing that anyone with a 3D printer or some cardboard can create.

The Smell & Paste device looks like a cassette tape had a torrid love affair with a View Master, then gave the resulting child up for adoption to Josef Prusa. Like a cassette tape, it is a small box with a reel running between two spools. The reel is a continuous strip of paper coated in the same stuff that makes scratch-and-sniff stickers possible. Like with a View Master, the user can go travel along a predetermined sensory road. They do so by rotating a wheel on the unit with their finger. As they do, it pulls the paper strip from one spool to the other. A scratcher rides along the top of the paper to release scents as the user spins the wheel.

The idea here is to weave a tapestry of smell. That strip can go from the scent of wet grass, to cedar, to bacon. All by itself, that is pretty cool. But it gets even better when paired with something like a VR (Virtual Reality) headset. Since the inception of VR, the holy grail has been a system that touches all of the senses. That's really difficult to do for smell, but Smell & Paste makes it both practical and affordable. Obviously the order of scents needs to be set ahead of time, but it is still something.

The best part is that anyone can make their own Smell & Paste device, complete with a custom olfactory journey. There are a few designs, all of which are open source. The best is the 3D-printed version, which is the most durable and will have the smoothest operation. The next-best is the laser-cut cardboard version, which is great for people who have access to a laser cutter but not a 3D printer. Finally, there is a template for cutting the cardboard parts using an Xacto knife. It's perfect for classrooms and for anyone with limited access to fabrication tools.

Of course, the device would be useless without the paper reel. For that, Brooks put together resources to help you create you own. There is a spreadsheet with info about tons of small scratch-and-sniff stickers available right now, so you can purchase the ones you want. The spreadsheet covers 538 unique scents from 22 different brands and includes price by scent surface area. With that information, you can order the stickers you want to create your perfect scent experience.

Cameron Coward
Writer for Hackster News. Proud husband and dog dad. Maker and serial hobbyist. Check out my YouTube channel: Serial Hobbyism
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