Dr. Yaniv Mama, a psychologist and mathematician, and Yigal Sharon, a psychotherapist, founded Moodify together in 2017 based on the idea of artificial empathy.
Sharon, who serves as Moodify’s CEO, explains : “Artificial empathy is all about computers being able to know how you feel and basically reflect it to you in real-time.
And help you feel better.”
Moodify began with the intent to create “Empathetic Car” systems that, in theory, would use video cameras and physical monitors to analyze a driver’s body metrics, such as heart rate or body language, and then react accordingly to improve performance and enhance safety.
For example, the car could potentially recognize a driver’s fatigue and consequently provoke alertness by emitting a certain smell.
So, let’s talk active scents
Over the past month, Moodify has pivoted to focus first on intervention technologies beginning with olfactory communication through “active scents,” Sharon explains.
“Scents are interesting for us because they are immediate and they are effective,” he says.
Moodify’s first product, expected to be released in January 2020, is a “white scent for mobility,” according to a company powerpoint slide at the EcoMotion 2019 event last month. Moodify ™ White is “like white noise” and “eliminates bad odor perception” by being personalized to target specific smells, like rotten bananas or cigarettes, and block a consumer’s ability to recognize that odor.
This device will circumvent the problem of smells trapped in a vehicle by dealing with the problem through the consumer’s perception of the issue.
Moodify expects this product’s first clients to be automotive-related companies such as rental car agencies, service car businesses like Uber or Lyft, and used-car sellers.
The product will be a small computer device that will emit odors to “influence the perception of smell so that a human being will not be able to smell bad stuff, like a bad odor,” according to Sharon.
The product will work for one to six months, depending on the size of the car, its type, and the abrasiveness of the smells, according to Moodify.
The formula for this “very, very advanced perfume,” to use Sharon’s words, comes from a decade worth of research at the Neurobiology lab in the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Moodify has an exclusive licensing agreement with the lab to commercialize its olfactory research and manufacture, market, and mass produce “active scent” products.
Using the institute’s research, Moodify plans to later expand its olfactory product line to produce a Moodify ™ Green and Moodify ™ Blue.
These active scents will emit synthesized pheromones to which humans have evolved to react in specific ways.
Dr. Meny Benady, Moodify’s board chairman explained these chemosignals at the EcoMotion event.
“We humans transmit and communicate with other humans by smells.
You may not be aware, but when we are afraid, our sweat has a pheromone which you can sense and it will make you alert.
Because it’s a survival thing.
If somebody in the tribe is attacked and he is afraid – he wants the rest of the tribe to be alert.
So, there is a pheromone which increases alertness and arousal.
It’s a chemosignal.
It reacts directly with your brain. You cannot decide if you want to be alert or not.”
Another pheromone, he adds, “is a relaxing pheromone which is found in the tears or women and children. When women and children are attacked, they cry to reduce the aggression of their attacker.”
According to the company’s EcoMotion presentation, Moodify ™ Blue utilizes a “relaxing pheromone synthesized from molecules” in tears shed by women.
It acts on the parasympathetic nervous system, and calms down the heartbeat.”
This product can be used to calm down a stressed driver, he explains.
Further, Moodify ™ Green was found in the “fear sweat” of parachuters and will be used to increase alertness to combat “microsleep” at the wheel.
According to moodify, the synthesized chemosignals will be emitted in cars in two main ways:
1. Either the car will “empathize” with the driver, analyzing driving patterns or body language to determine whether the scent is needed; or
2. a driver could press a button to use the active scent on demand.
Moodify says it is currently working with integrator, Tier 1 companies to implement their active scents into existing car technologies.
Earlier this year, Moodify was selected among a handful of startups to participate in Tel Aviv’s CityZone project, a mini-city-within-the-city at the Atidim High-Tech Park where advanced technological solutions for smart city ventures are vetted and tested.
The project is run in partnership between Atidim, the Tel Aviv Municipality, and Tel Aviv University.
The work with CityZone in part helps the company network and interact with both big and small automotive companies to come up with innovative intervention solutions.
The startup has an office at CityZone and has been working there for over two months.
Moodify is also among a dozen Israeli startups taking part in the newly established innovation lab in Tel Aviv by the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, a world-leading Franco-Japanese strategic partnership of auto giants.
Finally, Moodify says it is also working on a product similar to Moodify ™ White for hotel rooms and plans to launch it about six months after the car device.
Benady explains the demand: “20 percent of hotel rooms have bad smells. Now, if you are the Hilton, every five years they just replace everything.
You know all the paddings and carpets. But, if you are a medium hotel, you can’t afford to do that. And to get rid of the smell, the only way is to strip everything.”
The active smelling device could isolate different malodors, as well as promote brand smells. But it’s exact design or which specific hotel brands will be using it is still unclear.
Many of Moodify’s products are still in the development stages, leaving NoCamels with several technical questions, but also imaginative dreams of a future void of rotten-banana-smelling cars.
Where does odor and the role it plays in human health fit in the hog industry puzzle?
Duke University professor Susan Schiffman recently published a report reviewing past and current research that looks at odor and health.
In the report, Schiffman discussed research showing how social influences can play a role in odor sensitivity.
For instance, the suggestion of a bad odor can lead some people to believe they smelled the odor, even when one was not present.
Schiffman also pointed out that compounds in some odors can cause sensory irritation in the eye, nose and throat.
Overall, the effect of odors on humans is due to a complex interplay of physical and psychological factors.
Schiffman suggested more research. Her research report looked at a number of areas including the following:
1. Common health complaints from odor – The main health complaints that occur involve an irritation to the eye, nose or throat. Schiffman also noted headaches and drowsiness are reported.
People reporting symptoms from odors usually have problems with a wide array of compounds. So she said any studies of adverse effects of hog odors must also examine other odors in the rural environment.
Schiffman reported on a study she conducted that compared sensitivity to odors among a group of self-described odor “sensitive” people to a group who called themselves “less-sensitive” to odor.
The groups were asked to rate their sensitivity to different odors ranging from bleach and turpentine to animal odors.
Some 60% of the sensitive group reported 32 different odors would make them ill.
Only 12 of those same odors would make the less-sensitive group ill.
Animal odors were included in the list.
In fact, 62% of both groups stated animal odors would make them ill if exposed for 30 min. or more.
Schiffman found this surprising and later suggested that responses from the subjects “can be affected by the perceived purpose of the questionnaire as well as the duration of exposure.”
The subjects were North Carolina residents who do not live near agricultural operations.
2. Potential for odors causing rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, etc. – Schiffman said irritants can set up a low-grade inflammation that will predispose some people to hyper-reactivity and allergy. Research studies on swine confinement workers show a high level of work-related coughs, indicating irritation.
Other research determined acceptable levels and exposure limits of total dust and ammonia for swine workers. These levels are generally higher than those experienced downwind from hog operations, Schiffman noted.
Overall, asthma and rhinitis have increased across the U.S. in the last 15-20 years.
One study found a striking growth of asthma in both urban and rural children.
One compound found in hog odor, formaldehyde, has been linked to asthma-like symptoms. However, the levels of formaldehyde found downwind of swine operations is considerably less than that reportedly causing problems in humans, Schiffman said.
3. Toxic effects of hog odor – High levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) can affect the olfactory system. Some VOC are found in hog odors.
But Schiffman stated research shows the concentrations of VOC downwind from hog farms are too low to cause toxic reactions. She did add that no work has been done on the results of mixing low levels of VOC.
4. Potential for odor to cause stress – “The perception of odor is dominated by the pleasantness-unpleasantness dimension,” Schiffman reported. “Pleasant aromas such as cookies baking in the oven beckon us, whereas, unpleasant odors such as those from a garbage dump repel us.”
She added that this aspect of odor can affect mood due to the overlap of the olfactory and emotional systems in the brain. The stress and moods caused by unpleasant odors can in turn influence health through immune changes.
Schiffman conducted a research project in 1995 comparing the moods of North Carolina residents living near hog operations to those not living near hog operations.
She found more tension, depression and fatigue in people living near the intensive swine production units.
However, she added that inherited physical traits and learned responses may add to these moods.
Pleasant smells, on the other hand, are shown to enhance moods. Ironically, two pleasant smells shown to improve immune status are bacon and ham.
5. The role of conditioning in odor responses – “Conditioning or learned associations can play a role in symptoms induced by odors,” Schiffman said.
One research project showed panic and hyperventilation symptoms were learned after an acute exposure to chemicals. Before the exposure, the chemical odors were tolerated.
6. Environmental and health concerns affect odor perception – Several research projects have shown that beliefs about the safety of an odor can have an effect on its perception.
One study in particular showed that how the odor was presented to participants in the research project affected the outcome.
In the study, one group of participants, called the positive group, were told the odor was a natural extract used by aromatherapists.
The negative group was told the odor was an industrial chemical that caused health effects after long exposure.
A neutral group was told the odor was a common, approved stimulus for odor studies.
All groups received the same odor, same strengths. Yet the negative group found the odor to be more irritating, strong and complained more of health symptoms including light-headedness.
Another study showed people can develop psychological and health symptoms after the suggestion of a bad odor even though it was not present.
In this study, people were given the suggestion that a room contained a malodor.
They reported more negative moods and symptoms of discomfort than persons given the suggestion that the odor was pleasant. No odor was present in either case.
Schiffman concluded that people’s expectations about odor will influence their perception.
7. Chronic exposure to odors – Several studies show people adapt to odors, especially in the workplace. Tests show these workers are not as sensitive to the odors as unexposed people.
“Long-term adaptation to animal odors occurs in persons who work daily in highly odorous environments,” Schiffman reported.
“It accounts for the finding that persons who work with livestock cannot fully understand the complaints from neighbors who only receive odors intermittently.”