You’re well-versed in virtual pets, virtual reality and many other virtual variants of physical entities. But what about virtual coffee? Yes, this is a ‘thing’, it seems.

The Next Web is at Wired 2013 today in London, where David Edwards, a professor in Biomedical Engineering at Harvard University and founder of Le Laboratoire, was on hand to give a glimpse into the future of your favorite caffeinated beverage.

Le Laboratoire is a contemporary art and design center in Paris, where creatives experiment “at frontiers of science”, and out of this has come a virtual coffee bar serving up a series of bean-based experiments involving beakers and burning, vapors and tubes.

They’re chiefly sensory-based – while you will get a mild hit of caffeine from inhaling the various vapors, they won’t give you the full coffee experience. “It’s much more of a ‘head’ experience,” explains Edwards.

IMG 2019 730x391 Wake up and smell the virtual coffee: The OPHONE will take your breath away

But one of these experiments really caught our attention, which is called ‘the OPHONE’ (not to be confused with OPhone), a little Bluetooth-enabled cylindrical device that emits aromas based on messages sent from a mobile phone.

The general idea is this: you send your OPHONE-owning friend a quick whiff of caramel-infused coffee rather than, say, a text message. The recipient then pulls their OPHONE out of their bag, breathes in a beautiful blend of the good stuff, and then continues on their way.

IMG 2028 730x377 Wake up and smell the virtual coffee: The OPHONE will take your breath away

From the sender’s perspective, they have a mobile app from which they construct coffee-based symphonies – so it may start with caramel, move on to nut, introduce a hint of chocolate and so on. The OPHONE then follows these instructions to the note, sending out the smells in sequence.

IMG 2034 730x382 Wake up and smell the virtual coffee: The OPHONE will take your breath away

In terms of who might use such technology, well, this remains to be seen. But foodies, chefs and anyone who enjoys sensory experiences without the full physical effects could get on board with the kinds of things coming from Le Laboratoire.

Indeed, it’s worth noting here that this ‘food and beverage-hacking’ can apply to anything, including whisky, so if you want to sample various malts without getting off your head, well, this should be possible just by breathing in.

As for the OPHONE specifically, no launch date or price has been set yet, but it’s expected to go to market in the US some time in 2014.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out all our coverage from Wired 2013 here.