High-res graphics, stereo sound, touchscreens — gadgets have offered multisensory delights for years now. But with rare exceptions such as the wonderfully-named 2001 flop DigiScents iSmell, our devices have rarely put our noses to work.
Enter Pop Secret — yes, the popcorn people — and their new iPhone accessory, the Pop Dongle. Powered by its own battery and rechargeable via USB, the gizmo looks like a giant smiling piece of popcorn and plugs into your phone’s headphone jack. And when you play a popcorn-themed game called Poptopia — a free App Store download which doesn’t require the Pop Dongle — it emits a burst of popcorn-scented goodness every time you swipe a flying butter pat.
How does it work? Along with sound effects — which the Pop Dongle plays over its built-in speaker — the game sends a special audio code over the headphone jack when it’s time to give the player a sniff of buttery corn. On cue, the Dongle then vaporizes a spritz of popcorn-scented oil which wafts into the air.
And…it really does smell good! Although the Pop Dongle I tried had an admirably popcorny scent even when it wasn’t plugged into the iPhone: I stored mine in my backpack, and found that it left the interior infinitely more pleasing to the nostrils, like a potpourri sachet. Only better.
As you’ve already surmised, the Pop Dongle is a publicity-generating stunt for Pop Secret. As of right now, though, it isn’t a commercial product. The company produced only a limited run, and isn’t selling them via conventional channels. It is, however, auctioning off three of them on eBay, with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross. Bidding on the one that’s up right now stands at $280 as I write this. I wouldn’t pay any more than about four percent of that figure purely to get the Pop Dongle experience, but hey, it’s a good cause.
Of course, there’s an easy way to generate much the same effect for less than a dollar, and it has the added advantage of being delicious. Just play Poptopia — and eat freshly-made popcorn while you do it.