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Smells like there could be drama in the scented proprietary pods business

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I came to CES for drama

Image: The Verge

I came to CES to find drama, so I pitted two connected scented pod gadgets — Moodo and Compoz — against each other. Scented pods, if you haven’t heard of them, are more like pods that make custom scents. Think of them as a cross between a Keurig coffee maker and a Glade plugin — only more expensive and connected to the internet.

Agan Aroma debuted its Moodo device last year, which lets users insert pods and then digitally mix the scents through an app. It promises to turn users into “scent DJs.” This year, a French company called Artiris Parfum showed off its similar idea, called Compoz, a device that requires pods filled with liquid essential oils. Like Moodo’s product, it connects to users’ phones over Wi-Fi so they can customize their scents.

I can’t believe it, but yes, the connected scented pod space now has competition.

The Moodo takes up to four pods that are verified through a proprietary pin system, while Compoz can handle up to five pods that are verified through an NFC chip that’s embedded in each capsule. Moodo’s system costs $139 for the device and $30 for four-pod packs; Compoz will cost around €800 ($913) when it’s released later this year, with capsules ranging from €11 ($12) to €50 ($57).

Moodo’s device is discreet, plastic, and made to be accessible to regular people. The Compoz is customizable. The one shown at CES featured red leather and is priced at luxury levels. The team says it’s an “art object.”

The Compoz pods.
Photo by Ashley Carman / The Verge

Agan Aroma’s CEO Yoav Avidor hadn’t heard of Artiris’ similar device, despite the fact that it was being demoed only five aisles over in the same Mandalay Bay hotel ballroom. When I told him about its existence, he was surprised and noted that his company has patents on its work. He couldn’t give me any drama.

Artiris, however, knew of Moodo. The CEO, Aymeric Wuidart, responded like a cordial politician when I asked how he felt about two scented pod companies existing. He told me something pleasant about how two companies in the same space show a trend.

“We know the market is going toward personalizing the scent,” he says. Fair, for sure, but lame. Then he got spicier: “We think we’re more precise with how we blend [the scents].”

It’s not exactly the drama I came for, but I’ll take it.

Still, though, more drama seemed possible. So I went to Moodo’s CEO and offered to walk him over to Artiris’ booth. He accepted. We crossed the ballroom together, and I pointed him toward the behemoth $800 device. He flipped his CES badge over to hide his name, stood a comfortable distance away from the Compoz, and attempted to cross his arms to hide the “MOODO” logo emblazoned on his shirt. He said the pods look like they hold liquid, to which I said, they do. Then, he wondered aloud about how this technology could work. Liquid needs to be heated to release scent, he says, otherwise it needs to be mixed with alcohol or other solvents.

The Compoz mixing screen.
Photo by Ashley Carman / The Verge

Moodo relies on fans to activate its beads to diffuse a smell. Avidor says he thinks beads are more precise than heated oils because you can’t control temperature well enough to ensure the oils are warm and exuding a smell for a guaranteed amount of time.

Avidor had seen enough to know he couldn’t outwardly figure out the technology Artiris is using, but he didn’t seem stressed.

I stuck around to press Artiris on how its pods work. I need to know! The team says they don’t heat their essential oils, and they’re pure without added alcohol. Everything is modulated very precisely, and it comes together into a blending chamber, they say. That’s as far as the team would go. “It’s our little secret,” Xavier Pourcines, CMO, says, and notes that they, too, have patents. He asks me if I get it.

“No, not really.” But he wouldn’t give me more.

I didn’t find the drama I wanted on the first night of CES. I didn’t even get a verbal discussion between CEOs about patents, which might be the lamest ask, but I left that Mandalay Bay ballroom yesterday feeling inspired anyway because scented pods... they’re happening.