Skip to navigationSkip to content

Google has a patent for a wearable that makes you smell better

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Smell better, but avoid your friends anyhow.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Much of today’s wearable gadgetry is designed to track activity and movement for fitness purposes. Here’s a much stranger idea, courtesy of a new patent awarded to Google on Feb. 10: A movement-tracker that activates a web-connected air freshener to emit a fragrance to mask any offending odors caused by physical activity.

That’s right: It’s essentially a wearable Glade PlugIn.

If the device sensed its wearer doing something active—like working out—it would whir into action, wafting more pleasing odors than the body itself might emit.

US Patent and Trademark Office
Looks like an air-conditioning unit.

This proposed device doesn’t seem to have much faith in its own ability to improve the odiferous wearer’s reception, however, because it also would offer help for skulking unnoticed past any friend in the vicinity.

It would do this by connecting to the wearer’s social networks and detecting if any friends are nearby. If so, the device would send the wearer a map with a route to navigate around those friends.

US Patent and Trademark Office
Google would redirect you around your friends’ locations.

This patent was initially the brainchild of Motorola Mobility, which applied for the patent in 2012, although it was awarded just this week. It’s unlikely that this particular piece of intellectual property was one that Google had its eye on when it purchased the company for its patents, but be that as it may: The future of this invention is now in Google’s hands. (Motorola is now owned by Lenovo, but Google retained most of its portfolio of patents.)

Quartz has reached out to Google to ask whether the company would ever in a million years actually manufacture a thing like this. We will update this post with any response.

Many patents are never turned into products, and this one feels particularly far-fetched (perhaps only beaten to the prize for strangest wearable by Sony’s smart wig). And while many patents are filed solely for protective reasons, this innovation seems to solve a problem that few have ever felt the need to solve. (It would be interesting to know whether the patent writers often found themselves in this predicament, and if so, whether they had considered instead just taking a shower before heading outside.)

It’s strange to imagine that in its last days of independence, the company behind the first flip-phone and one of the best-selling mobile phones ever was concerning itself with how we smell in public. Perhaps this is why Motorola is now a distant fourth in US smartphone market share.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.