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Moodify wants you to follow your nose to safer driving

An Israeli company says it's figured out how to use special fragrances to block foul odors and even alter human behavior.

Small diffusers like this could be placed in, for instance, ride-hailing vehicles to block undesirable smells.

Craig Cole/Roadshow
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

Flying cars, a nuclear reactor in every home and smell-o-vison are a few innovations our forebears in the 1950s probably thought were just around the proverbial corner. Unfortunately, or perhaps luckily, none of these things have come to pass yet, though this may no longer be the case for that last item.

Moodify, a startup company based in Tel Aviv, Israel, says it has figured out how to use scents to alter human behavior, improve performance, enhance feelings of wellbeing and even increase vehicular safety. This sounds like the stuff of science fiction or the gimmick of a bad romantic comedy, but while speaking at a private media event at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Yigal Sharon, the company's CEO and co-founder, said it's all backed by scientific fact.

Founded in 2017, Moodify draws on extensive development and testing. "Everything we bring to the table is backed by 10 years of research" conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, Sharon said.

How is this all said to work? Well, it's a bit complicated, but here's the gist. Certain aromas deliver unique signals to the brain that cause humans to react without even consciously knowing it.

Sharon said the work he and his company have done has resulted in the creation of various formulations, each with a specific purpose. So far, these are Moodify White, Moodify Blue, Moodify Green and Moodify Red. Think of these as perfumes that can directly alter human behavior.

First out of the gate is Moodify White, which is launching at this year's CES. It's designed to change how humans perceive odors. Like a volume knob, it's supposed to essentially turn down the intensity of undesirable smells.

Moodify is working with supplier company Valeo to further develop this technology.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

As a demonstration, Sharon handed out some small, air freshenerlike fobs infused with this Moodify White. When they eventually go on sale, he estimates these passive diffusers will sell for $25 each and last a month. Anecdotally, after opening the one I was given, one or two sniffs did seem to cancel out the cleaning-solution smell of my Vegas hotel room, but of course, we'd need to do real testing to render a verdict. 

Sharon said Moodifier White can be used to make ride-hailing vehicles and rental cars more pleasant or to reduce tobacco-smoke aromas indoors -- perhaps in buses, public spaces and even on airplanes. He also noted it'd be great for dealerships, to help reduce the perception of unwanted aromas in used cars.

Moving on, this is where things start getting a little weird. "Moodify Blue can calm you down," Sharon said, reducing stress and aggression. Unfortunately, compared with the Moodify White formulation, "The Blue will cost more because this is a very specialized signal, which has to be synthesized," though oddly enough, it's a copy of pheromones found in human tears. He said he hopes it will hit the market in six to eight months, possibly as an oil you can rub on your skin if you feel anxious. "This has huge potential," he said.

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Moodify Green is also still under development. Designed to increase alertness and awareness, Sharon said it's essentially a synthetic version of the pheromones found in the sweat generated by humans in fearful situations. Sounds appealing, right?

Finally, there's Moodify Red. "[This] smell technology has a very good possibility to save lives," Sharon said. Many of today's vehicles are fitted with driver alertness systems that can identify if you're getting a bit drowsy behind the wheel and remind you to take a break or grab a cup of coffee. Still, it's relatively easy to ignore these alerts. Sharon argued that Moodify Red could be used to wake drivers, so "Accidents that are caused by drowsy drivers or by microsleep could … be totally avoided by using this kind of smell."

Setting his metal briefcase on a banquet chair, Sharon popped the latches and pulled out a small bottle of Moodify Red for me to take a whiff of. "And it's strong, so be careful," he said while holding the vial in front of me. Wafting to my nose, it smelled a bit like peppers, an invigorating aroma to be certain, though I did not immediately notice any increase in my energy level. Although I had just downed three cups of coffee at breakfast and was already amped up on too much caffeine.

Moodify Red is designed to wake a person up and keep them alert for at least 20 minutes, "And you cannot resist it," Sharon claimed, the way you might ignore an audio or visual alert.

Moodify says its formulations use normal perfume molecules, but they're mixed in different ways.

Ferrantraite/Getty Images

Like some Mercedes-Benz models, including the flagship S-Class sedan, cars of the future could be fitted with small perfume dispensers that emit a spritz of something like Moodify Red as you drive late at night. Theoretically, it could be an item serviced at regular intervals and at an affordable price.

Using smells to alter human behavior may sound a bit dubious and possibly even dangerous, but, "This is very safe," Sharon assured us. "We are using normal perfume molecules," he said, but the company is mixing them in different ways.

Automakers are interested in Moodify's fragrance technology, Sharon said. "I can tell you that all major OEMs are in touch with us," he said, including Toyota. In fact, the Japanese automaker's Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Toyota AI Ventures, invested $1 million in the company. Moodify has also received significant funding from other sources, including a Japanese neuroscience firm. In total, the company's raised nearly $3 million to continue its work. It's also partnered with supplier company Valeo to further develop this technology.

Pushing forward into the automotive space, Sharon said a major European car company is currently testing the fragrances to see how effective they are. So, who knows? Behavior-altering aromas could end up in a vehicle you buy, and it could make perfect scents.


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