Spring 2015 | MA Interaction Design Thesis Project Umeå Institute of Design

In today’s digital world, digital data is often stored away and wiped out by tech upgrades. The memory of scents, however, is persistent. The sense of smell can retrieve past memories instantaneously.

In this project, I am enriching family lives using the sense of smell, which is not yet taken advantage of in the design field but has a tremendous potential for innovation. The result of this project is a service named Scentimo (Scent-memory), which enhances a family with young children to share and preserve family memories. The service includes the bracelet and mobile app for different users.

Capture and view family scent stories

Parents can capture their memorable scents by the bracelet with the three different modes. When their children grow up they give their children the bracelet as a reminder of their childhood and family stories. Children explore family scent stories by visiting a same location or set time by their parents.

In the scenario, the child comes back to the place where he used to live with his family in his childhood. Concept video 2 shows how Scentimo brings the scent story created by his parents in the past.

The project process

1. Research - Interview and cultural probe

In the research phase, based on interviews, I was able to detect design opportunities, collect personal stories and establish relationships and roles of users. Cultural probe was another method for understanding targeted users and define the project scope.

2. Upcoming R&D - Odor technology

Researchers have been developing smell sensor named Electronic Nose, which is smaller than a penny size since more than 10 years ago. It scans and analyzes scents based on the databases they have been developing. They are planning to place it into the smartphone in a coming few years. Output technologies have been also developing by many companies and professionals. One of great examples is called oPhone DUO, which is Scent based mobile messaging device. It contains 8 scent cartridges with 32 aromas, which can create more than 300.000 different scents.

3. Ideation and Workshop

Based on the research and the framework, I started brainstorming with some keywords to get some ideas. In order to evaluate my early concepts, I hold the small workshop with a couples of families.

4. Development - Translating smells into shapes and colors.

In order to identify different types of scents, I created 10 types of shapes using watercolors. I formulated abstract feelings while I sniffed different essential oils to capture the very first sensation evoked by the scents. After developing scent visuals I started to apply the visual language into the wireframes and made a quick digital prototype to evaluate the concept and design for further developments.

Bracelet is the other platform, which is connected to mobile application to offer the Scentimo service. It both automatically and manually records and reproduces scents to create family memorable stories.