This Smellslike That

Lid

As the development of our internet-of-smells device gathers pace, I thought it might be a good time to explain where we are currently are with everything.

The Smell of Success prototype was a one function device - it connected to your computer via USB and sprayed out a smell every time one of your tweets was re-tweeted. More than anything, it was the software that was determining this function, not the hardware. And software can be changed much more easily than hardware. What we had built, essentially, was an internet connected smell device, which, depending on the coding, could produce smells in reaction to all manner of web interactions.

We started to think of how we could use a more developed version of the device as a platform for others to experiment with their own personal uses for smelling the internet. Using an interaction similar to that employed by the brilliant ifttt.com, we can employ a simple cause and effect approach to choosing what it does - for example, if I get a retweet on twitter, then my device will produce the smell of lemon.

SmellsLike

From this came the name “smellslike”, which poses the device as a mediator between internet interactions and smells in the real world. A retweet smellslike lemon. An e-mail smellslike chocolate. Whatever you like. And, we hope, as people play with this more and more, some really interesting interpretations will start to emerge.

- Chris


Sep 26
10:01 am
5 notes

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Passing Comments on Digital Snurdling

Sometimes when I walk by someone on the street, I hear a little snippet of their conversation. It’s a little vox-popping insight into that persons very persona. It can be anything from the classic “I’m stuck in traffic” (when stood outside the pub) or the the slightly more ambiguous “He put it where?!”.

I don’t mean to do this; I’m not some creepy eavesdropper of Londoners most intimate secrets. I can’t turn my ears off, although sometimes I wish I could as it makes me feel a bit naughty and audibly voyeuristic. 

I feel a bit like this about Twitter. It’s like digital eavesdropping but the person knows you are listening and secretly enjoys it. Pervs.

I think I’ve turned into a bit of a ratio perv of late. I find myself more intrigued by a persons twitter ratio (the gap between followers and following) than what that person is  actually saying. It’s a bit like watching a particularly beautiful lady walk down the train platform and counting how many chaps pretend not to look at her until she’s walked past. She could be the most interesting person in the world but they will never know.

I’ve also got a similar habit with smells. If someone (male or female) walks past me on the street and they smell incredible, I’l usually turn around to the person I’m with and exclaim, much to their dismay, “Did you smell that girl/guy? they smelt AWESOME!”. This often ends up in my acquaintance’s swift departure. I assume no one wants to hang out with that guy that goes around sniffing people.

If you think about it though, surely this is what the beautiful smelling person wants? Why else would you spend an obscene amount of money on smelling great if you didn’t want someone to appreciate it? It’s not my fault I breathed near them.

The reason I chat so much breeze about this is because we’ve recently been discussing connecting smell to the internet. It’s an intriguing area because the web is such a predominantly visual / auditory focused arena. We spend a great deal of time interacting with people on the web, yet it lacks the wealth of sensory stimuli that physical human - human contact provides in meatspace.

However, in many ways, I think the 140 character twitter message bears a close resemblance to the ephemeral passing waft of a particularly fragrant individual. They  both invoke certain emotions, have a certain charm or distaste and both disappear into the ether as quickly as they arrived.

This reminds me of something my old man once told me about the act of ‘snurdling’. Snurdling is the process of keeping a keen eye out for any young damsel who has recently de-mounted her bicycles seating area. Shortly after said bicycle is bereft of its owner, the snurdler in question shuffles over to the seat and gives it a quick sniff for any traces of human bodily odour.

Strange I know, but the prospect of a world where fleeting digital interactions leave behind a notable olfactory trace, sounds like a much more interesting and subtle means of notification than the various audio and visual cues I currently receive to tell me I have just interacted with another human being.

Bring on the digital snurdlers.

- Ben


Aug 25
4:53 pm
6 notes

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Smelling the Internet

Smell of Success

The way we currently experience the Internet is primarily concerned with the visual, and, to a lesser extent, the auditory. The Internet is something “somewhere else”, a separate world that we gain access to through the combination of screen, mouse and keyboard that you probably have sat before you now. 

So you can see and hear all that stuff in the Internet, but not much else. Last week, we were talking about ways of widening and diversifying this interaction - how can touch, smell, balance, taste etc. be just as important a part of the way we experience the web?

Smell is an area that has been explored in design and architecture to an extent, but usually only in relation to marketing - think of shops like Subway or Lush, whose distinctive (some would say invasive) odours are as much a part of their brand identity as their products and imagery. In fact, I find you often smell these places before you see them, and, crucially, instantly know exactly what that particular smell means.

Smells can affect us in ways that we are not always particularly aware of, which is not surprising given the very visual culture that we have all grown up in. On a subconscious level however, smell has very strong links to comfort, memory and experience - it can open up pathways in your brain to different moods and sensations that hit you very suddenly and profoundly.

Over the next week or so we’re going to be working out what the “Internet of Smells” might be. How it connects to the internet, how regularly we should catch a whiff of it, and why and in what situations it could be genuinely useful. Its about enriching and broadening our interaction with the web - and considering an internet culture that engages more than just a couple of our senses (hopefully without making another iSmell).

What do you think the Internet smells like?

- Chris

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Aug 22
5:36 pm
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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

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