Student work Smell Narratives

 

In another project for the MIT Media Lab, Prof. Bove and I developed a way to build narratives through smells. An Android app is used to activate a scent nebulizer through a user controlled timeline of smells or spoken keywords, allowing one to add an olfactory layer to any story being told.

Tools and materials: Java for Android, Illustrator and IOIO board

 

HOW IT WAS MADE

The olfactory sense is a powerful one. It helps us remember the most ancient memories and create emotional connections with things and events. Can it be used to augment narratives and learning experiences?

In this project Prof. Bove and I explored this idea. He worked in the hardware, hacking the atomizer to receive automated signals from a simple electronic board. I designed and built the Android application that would send signals to the atomizer through a IOIO board. The user can choose to build a timeline by tapping the icons on screen, or by recording keywords and phrases for the Speech Recognition API.

Imagine you are reading, for example, this passage from Alice in Wonderland:

"In the very middle of the court was a table with a large dish of tarts upon it: they looked so good, that it made Alice quite hungry to look at them—"I wish they’d get the trial done,” she thought, “and hand round the refreshments!” But there seemed to be no chance of this; so she began looking at everything about her to pass away the time."

As you are reading this passage out loud, the smell of apple pie fills the air. I had the opportunity to demonstrate this project during the Members Week of MIT Media Lab.