The Quest to Make the Perfect Smells


Over the last month or so, we have been doing lots of experiments to work out exactly what the best medium is for dispersing smells on demand. At long last, it feels like we are very close to working it out, and have a working system that lets out smells whenever the internet tells it to. I thought it might be interesting to just outline and reflect on the strangely cyclical process we have gone through to get to where we are now.

Pringles Fan

Our first smelly prototype was the Pringles tube with a fan in the top and air freshener in the bottom. It definitely worked to an extent, and the fan did distribute the smell - the main problem being that it smelt quite strongly whether it was switched on or not. And its hard to smell the internet when everything else smells too.


The next one was the hacked Glade air freshener we called the “Smell of Success”. This used the same aerosol canister as a normal Glade freshener would use, and consequently had the same problems - although it could produce a strong smell with very little liquid, it smelt absolutely awful and was very expensive to replace when it ran out. Furthermore, there is very little possibility, with aerosols, for people to make their own scents and customize their device’s output.


The next would-be smell-maker was the ultrasonic vaporiser/fogger, some experiments with which can be found here. This worked by vibrating water at such a frequency that it turned into mist. If you put essential oils in said water, the air would very quickly fill with their scent. Despite producing a very visually stunning effect, the downside of the thick fog was that it began to soak everything around it in smelly water. Which isn’t ideal. Particularly around computers and stuff.


We needed to find a way of spreading the more natural, pleasant smells of essential oils without coating everything nearby in the aforementioned puddles of stench. And to do this, we have somewhat returned to where we started. By creating a closed system between an essential oil container and a directional fan, we make it possible to distribute the oils’ smell on demand, without it leaking out all of the time. It works!

Sometimes a very simple solution like this goes through a very complicated process to eventually arrive at it. With the components and system now more or less in place, work continues on how we refine the visual form of the object into something that works, but also that gives the smell dispenser a unique and desirable identity.

I assure you, you’re going to want one.

- Chris

Oct 13
10:25 am
82 notes



If you’ve been following our flicker feed you’ll have noticed that over the last few days, we’ve been knocking together quite a plethora of prototypes. Its been fun! It’s allowed us to develop (and generally just play around with) the look, feel, interaction and of our smelly device as well as explore what it could be made from and how it could be made. Anyway here’s some snaps of our ‘finished’ models with a bit of a description about the intention of each iteration. Enjoy.

So following on from the cups-and-vaporisers approach, we went out and bought a few computer fans. Our visit to ScentAir identified that fans and scent cartridges was the most common method they used within their electric automatic model (albeit not with computer fans but a similar effect). Plus we had been faffing around with the vaporiser for too long. The above image was the first working model off the back of this - pringles tub with a few drops of essence inside with a fan taped to the top. Plugging into the computer via USB, the fan activated and released the smell within and contained it nicely while it was off, perfect, but not all that pretty!

Meanwhile, Ben was playing around with a different fan and constructed this helix approach to pump the air out as efficiently as possible (below).


Chris, using yet other fan, began playing around with a more towered approach. This development helped to look into how we can start layering the different aspect of the design - the electronics, the scent oil and the fan.



Getting an understanding what goes where was helpful in highlighting some design routes. The geometric restrictions of what we were using helped to open up some avenues that were not expected, like Tim’s design below where the device has a hinge for it to open and close allowing the user to change/replace the ‘smell cartridge’. The image below it is a further development which also incorporates housing and working connection for the arduino.


We began to see a problem emerging with our model thus far which was that none of them were really oriented towards your nose - kind of important to experiment with if you what immediate, alerting smells! This one from Genis leans back, at such an angle that it fires smells directly from your desk to where you are sitting. Below that is one from Tim which rotates to allow the user to specify where it is pointing.



That’s not to say it was all fans and function, Ben made this bellow style approach which was certainly the most effective smell puffer but we struggled to work out how it could operate electronically whilst also being silent


Where are we not then? We’ll there’s a few more prototype photos on the flicker page with some more weird, wonderful and primarily cardboard models for you to check out. On top of that we have been discussing some development ideas for what the smell cartridge actually is and what the most effective way it could plug into the device is and there are undoubtedly a few more card models to follow. Plus there a whole web connection to sort out… The cogs are still turning within the the Foundry!

Oct 6
12:32 pm
57 notes


Foundry is a research team at Mint Digital.
Foundry is all about exploring physical objects which connect to the web though digital technology.

We are currently working on:
The Smell of Success