Solus is a series of smart devices that highlights our sense of smell so that people who feel alone can find a state of solitude and joy. Solus is designed to make people enjoy the moment.
Experience & Interaction Designer, Creative Technologist
Internet of Things, Smart Device, Product Design
May 21st - 22nd 2019 at ITP Spring Show, NYU Tisch School of Arts, New York
January - May 2019
How does our brain perceive aloneness?
Aloneness can be perceived differently by our brain: we can feel loneliness or solitude.
Loneliness makes us feel “out in the cold”, marked by a sense of estrangement and, an awareness of excess aloneness. It becomes a mental health issue when we can’t break off of the negative thoughts, sensations, and behaviors.
To transform the feeling of loneliness to solitude, one needs to know the importance of being able to feel at peace in one own company.
Three smart devices
These smart devices can be controlled through a mobile app. The network framework is developed using Node.js and designed in RESTful API protocol that allows the server and client sides to communicate with Spotify’s API to gather song data and send back to the devices.
The device is built with Arduino MKR1000 which is designed for Wi-Fi connectivity. The structure is designed to integrate the release of scents with light interactivity using atomizer, a device module for emitting water, and NeoPixel module. The mobile app is developed using Apache Cordova to enable a web framework for software development.
Designing the smart devices
The hardware design is intended to be very simple. The aim is to make the devices more invisible so that the user will focus on the environment and not the technology itself.
With Solus, it's beyond designing the hardware. It's about designing the space to elicit joy and change the perception of aloneness. To design the space, it's necessary to think carefully how the user interacts with the product to create certain moods in space. Besides using scents, LED interaction is also embedded in the product.
Interaction Design: Scents and LED
To create a seamless experience, Solus App was designed in a way that's easy to use with clean and simple interface design. User can turn on/off, setting the smart devices, and also connect to Spotify app with a single click from the app.
The Scent Notification is a physical notification device that releases a certain scent when a person receives a digital message from someone that s/he cares about. This notification creates a parasocial interaction, an illusionary experience of face-to-face interaction but it is actually mediated, to enhance the physicality of digital communications.
The scent of lilac and cucumber are integrated into this device. It is one of the strongest scents that are associated with our memory. It reconciles our memory to a specific place or person.
The Scent Clock is an olfactory device that represents time in the form of scents. The clock transforms people moods to be calm and relax based on time perception.
The scent of Geranium that is light, can make our body fresh in the morning. The bright scent of Citrus can boost our moods during the day. The scent of Rose that is heavy and warm, help us relax at night.
The Scent Speaker is a scented personal music player that releases scents based on the type of song playing at the moment. The speaker creates a multi-sensory experience while listening to music. The integration of auditory and sense of smell elevates the invisible frequency of music to influence how people experience physical space.
The calmest songs are associated with Lavender, it’s smooth and calming. The mixed of Citrus and Vanilla for chill songs. The citrus scent is used for happy songs, it's proven to boost happiness. The most upbeat songs are associated with peppermint to boost energy.
The sense of smell
Human senses play a big role in how we perceive and experience the world. Of all our senses, our sense of smell can be one of the strongest senses. The smell instantly triggers such strong memories and emotions. Smell is also better than images at inducing the feeling of “being brought back in time”.
Study has proven scent can cause physiological effects. It is shown to not just decreased stress and negative thoughts, but improve our mental perception. By integrating scents, people can focus more on themselves and enjoying the moment.
Solus devices use scents to shift the brain from feeling lonely to embracing solitude and a strong sense of joy. The scent opens a new exploration on how we improve our senses while interacting with the world.
Solus explores how to regulate our physiological and emotional equilibrium through sensory experiences.
The three devices are Scent Notification, Scent Clock, and Scent Speaker. Each device is designed to create a multi-sensory experience that impacts mood and memory to transform space in meaningful ways. The scents are designed through the research process to help us feel at peace in our own company and achieve the state of solitude.
Based on research and user testing
Solus devices were designed based on research. Through talking to scent experts in New York City and doing user testing, the scents that are most associated with certain situations were chosen carefully.
Designing smart olfactory devices need to consider how they meet the need from the public. Achieving the state of solitude by relying on the human sense of smell is subjective and personal. However, the communication of scents can be universal and thus have impacts on the human condition. The language of scents can shape the way humans experience the world. Every scent, from floral, to fruity, spice, and earthy, can drive powerful experience that gives us an opportunity to explore all of our senses.
I paid attention to every detail in each process of the development. I designed the network system so the Solus app and the devices can effectively communicate with the server and use other API, such as Spotify API. Meanwhile, The hardware was developed using the most efficient module so it can connect to WiFi without using a lot of power.
To make sure that the final products are 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.