Our world has scratch-and-sniff books and the occasional Braille menu, so it only makes sense to create a device that helps visually-impaired restaurant patrons order by emitting specific food smells. A new conceptual design called an Odor Menu takes a step in that scented direction.
As described in the online design magazine Yankodesign.com, the disk-shaped handheld Odor Menu would be made using technology called electric active plastic — sometimes called electroactive polymer — or EAP. I'd never heard of EAP before, but my understanding after reading about this phone is that it's a plastic interface with the ability to dynamically display Braille.
The smell function would come from "olfactory biochips" that would simulate each dish's scent and emit it for the visually-impaired user. Since this is still just an idea, the designers don't describe exactly how those scents would be replicated and then separately contained in the device so that pressing a button to release would work.
If such a device were to malfunction, blind diners could end up smelling something akin to the restaurant's entire kitchen. That's not necessarily bad, but it wouldn't be helpful either.
Yankodesign's Radhika Seth listed the Odor Menu's designers as Liu Jie, Wen Ho and Liu Dongming, but I had trouble identifying them any more specifically than that when trying to get more information online about who they are to give them full credit for such a compelling idea. Designers, whoever you really are, good thinking.
As soon as something like this becomes a reality, non-visually impaired patrons will want to get a helpful whiff, too. Or the chef could just come out with a bunch of samples to put under everyone's noses.
Photos: How the conceptual Odor Menu would work. Credit: Liu Jie, Wen Ho and Liu Dongming via Yankodesign.com