If you want to freshen the air in your living room, you could always throw open the windows or reach for an aerosol. Then there's FragWrap - one of the most mind-bogglingly elaborate ways ever dreamed up to get your room smelling good. FragWrap – short for "fragrance wrapper" – propels soccer-ball-sized soap bubbles across your room while projecting light onto the bubbles for added dramatic effect. When each dazzlingly bright bubble bursts, a mist containing aromas like rose, orange or mint showers the room.
As you might have guessed, FragWrap is not a product on sale today. Rather, it is a potential application of future "ubiquitous computers" that some researchers believe will be built into our homes. FragWrap is the brainchild of Hideyuki Tokuda and his colleagues at the UbiLab at Keio University in Fujisawa, Japan. In their scheme, a simple Arduino microprocessor-based computer choreographs a number of tasks including speech recognition and generation, robotic aroma handling, bubble-blowing, depth-camera sensing and light projection.
To use their system, which will be demonstrated in September at the Ubicomp conference in Zurich, Switzerland, you speak to tell it which aroma you would like, and it verbally acknowledges your choice. Then some convoluted robotics – involving Lego arms and lab pipettes – selects and vaporises the chosen aroma concentrate into a vial as a fan blows bubbles. A bubble full of vapour emerges, and eight small fans blow it to any desired spot in the room. Useless, overcomplicated, but also fun.