Many people might have experience stress in our modern way of living. Yes, we have met 2020. Whenever we're feeling down, we just need a slight of boost to relax or enjoy the moment. Even before 2020, I've been thinking how can we improve our moods by exploring our underrated senses?
Transforming moods and productivity through scents.
Solus devices use scents to shift the brain from feeling desperate to embracing strong sense of joy. The scent opens a new exploration on how we improve our senses while interacting with the world.
Busy schedules tend to influence our wellbeing. Sometimes after we have a long day, we just want to relax. But it might be hard to achieve the relaxation state after all the activities that we do during the day.
I thought that meditation could be a simple practice that everyone can do to boost our mental health. With plenty of meditation apps out there, we could use them to help us reduce stress and increase our wellbeing. However, I realized that most of the time we only focus on one of our senses to practice meditation which might not be optimal to enhance our wellbeing. I noticed there were some problem why it might be hard for some people to enhance their moods and stay focus.
- People still need social interaction when we are feeling down. In this digital era, especially after COVID-19 hit, it's difficult to have a meaningful social interaction. Text or even video call might not be enough to fulfill our social needs.
- It is hard to maintain our moods through out the day with busy schedules. Our emotional journey can be easily affected by our activities. Most of the time, it is hard to keep our positivity when we are driven by busy schedules.
- We might overthink when we are stressed out. At the end of the day, we only want to relax. But, the anxiety that is built during the day makes it hard to keep our mind focus.
There are multiple ways to enhance our wellbeing, connection, and focus. By examining our senses, it can open a new exploration on how we understand more of our mental states. A tool can be useful to improve our senses which can let us focuses more on ourselves. The main objective of this project is to develop a product that can boost para-social interaction, enhance our other senses, and improve our moods and focus which can be part of our daily life.
- Simple. The product shouldn't add more complexity to peoples' mental states.
- Invisible. The product should be invisible to make people focus on themselves rather than the technology.
- Customizable. People should be able to make it their personal belonging.
I noticed that human sense of smell was underrated. We tend to forget that smell could heavily affect our moods. Based on my research, smell is better than images at inducing the feeling of "being brought back in time". It is because the olfactory bulb has direct connections to amygdala and hippocampus which are the two brain areas that strongly implicated in emotion and memory. Study has proven that scent can cause physiological effects. It is shown to not just decreased stress and negative thoughts, but improve our mental perception.
Smart devices can help automate processes and controls. Solus devices could change the nuance of the space automatically to help users improve their moods without them interacting with the devices every single time.
There were three different devices that each could be connected to the mobile app: Scent Notification, Scent Clock, and Scent Speaker. Scent Notification was designed to elevate someone's mood by releasing a particular scent when he received a message from someone else. Scent Clock was designed to boost our moods based on time perception. And, Scent Speaker was designed to create a multi-sensory experience while listening to music.
Designing Solus was more about designing the space to elevate people's moods. It was necessary to think carefully of how the users would interact with the product that would affect their moods. To enhance the users' moods, I integrated scents and lights interaction to immerse the users in their environment.
Mobile app design
Solus app was designed to create a seamless experience to use smart devices in everyday life. With a simple interface, users can easily control and add a scheduling system environment.
I believed that the sooner we tested the product, the better we could refine it to keep the iteration going. I created the wireframes and tested the concept using them before creating the final designs.
The wireframes design was simple and easy to understand. However, they didn't tell how the users could automate the devices. I created the polished designs to overcome the issue. Below is the user flow of the refined Solus app.
The Scent Clock was an olfactory device that represented time in the form of scents. The clock transformed people moods to be calm and relax based on time perception.
I mapped the scent and light at a certain time with the purpose of the experience to keep us feel productive through out the day. In the morning, I chose the scent of Geranium that was light to make our body fresh. The bright scent of Citrus was chosen for the afternoon to boost our moods during the day. And the scent of Rose that was heavy and warm could helped us relax at night.
Change the room vibes by scheduling what time during the day the scents would disperse based on personal taste.
Configure the light colors to elevate the moods.
The Scent Speaker was a scented personal music player that released scents based on the type of song that was playing at the moment. The integration of auditory and sense of smell elevated the invisible frequency of music to influence how people experienced physical space.
The calmest songs were associated with Lavender, it was smooth and calming, the mixed of Citrus and Vanilla for chill songs, and the citrus scent was used for happy songs, it was proven to boost happiness. The most upbeat songs were associated with peppermint scent to boost energy.
Connect to Spotify account to create the space vibe based on the song that is playing.
The Scent Notification was a physical notification device that released a certain scent when a person received a digital message. This notification created a para-social interaction, an illusionary experience of face-to-face interaction, but it was actually mediated. It enhances the physicality of digital communications.
The scent of lilac and cucumber were integrated into this device. It was one of the strongest scents that were associated with our memory. It reconciled our memory to a specific place or person.
Reconcile our memory by dispersing the scent when someone messages us.
Behind the scenes
I designed the network system so the Solus app and the devices could effectively communicate with the server and use other API, such as Spotify API. The hardware was developed using the most efficient module so it could connect to WiFi without using a lot of power. I paid attention to every detail in each process of the development.
To make sure that the products were polished, I did some iterations from the designing the 3D models to polishing the enclosure. I chose the warm color of the materials for the enclosures when 3D printed the devices. Finally, to create the professional looks, I carefully painted and sanded the enclosures.
"Smell might be the future interaction. It is underrated but powerful. It can be the key to the environmental experience, impacting feelings and human behavior."