(CNN) - Holiday albums could be less forgettable when pictures of a Mediterranean meal carry the scent of olives; a selfie on the beach contains a trace of salt spray or a rainy London scene conveys the distinctive aroma of freshly wet concrete.
If the digital age has increased the volume of communication, it may not have improved the quality. Reversing that trend is the goal of a new generation of sensory engineers who are going beyond sight and sound to produce devices that use our untapped faculties. Perhaps the most exciting breakthroughs right now are arriving in the form of smell-centered communication.
"Our motto is 'aroma tells a thousand pictures,'" says Dr. David Edwards, biomedical engineer at Harvard and founder of Le Laboratoire, known for producing radical sensory devices such as calorie-free chocolate spray. Every human has thousands of distinct smell sensors, Edwards explains, a resource he taps with his newest invention the oPhone.
Set for a beta launch in July, this phone offers the most sophisticated smell messaging yet created. In collaboration with Paris perfumers Givaudan and baristas Café Coutume, Edwards has created a menu of scents, contained in "Ochips." MIT electrical engineer Eyal Shahar designed containers for them that release when heated by the touch of a button, but cool quickly to keep smells distinct and localized, a historic difficulty with the much-mocked smell-o-vision experiments in cinema.