IoT | UX
Smello! is an olfactory messaging IoT that allows people in distance to communicate through the sense of smell.
My Role
UX Researcher
UX Designer
Industrial Designer
Visual Designer
10 weeks
Audrey D.
Smello! is an in-class project of Design Methods.

This is my first structured design project, although missing many important aspects needed for a good design deliverable, I still commemorate this project as an introduction to my interaction design career.
sits as an aesthetic lamp
lights up when you have a scent message
squeeze to experience the scent
Secondary Research
Participatory Design
UX Iteration
Industrial Design
Visual Design
Design Prompt
Every family is different. Family relationships are at times full of love and support, or difficult and tumultuous.

Every family has their own rituals and traditions, how might design enhance those traditions?
Beginning our project, we found the given prompt fits the time perfectly. because COVID-19 has been compromising familial activities in many ways.

Given such context, we developed questionnaire focusing on how people have been practicing their familial ritual, especially food culture, in distance.

We spread the survey mostly through our friends, social media, and friends of friends.
Most of families’ connective activities have been negatively impacted by the social-distance policy.

There is a need for connection in distance since most families are spread apart at least in different cities.
As students from out of state and out of the country, we can relate very much with having to spend most of the time away from home. However, time spent apart doesn’t mean time poorly spent.

We then dug deeper with semi-constructed interviews focusing on how people had been spending there time apart from their family, what are somethings they did to cope/enjoy with the distance.

We have two interviewees, one is a mother of two children, another one is an international student that spent the holiday far from home.
“Because of the coronavirus, I’m at home more, and I’ve taken up certain culinary duties. I reminisce about my mom, and then I follow the recipes as she guides me, and we sit down and eat it.”
“I am an international student from China, sometimes I would try to replicate traditional dishes with ingredients I could find here. However, the taste and experience could never be 100% the same. I think those recipes have to be made with the ingredients grown from back home.”
Remote working has allowed people more time to spare, which could be used to reconnect with families inter-generationally.

Homesickness emerged from families in distance can be tricky. Food can be made the same way, but the feelings are different.
We asked our friends (participants) to send over some pictures of their family food traditions or recent food related communications.

Family relationships in distance turns out to be very similar to COVID separated families.
My mom sent me this photo when I was writing my final paper, I can “literally” smell the barbecue smoke. I hate it when she sends me food pics at night.
We hosted a dumpling making event with a few of my friends around the time of spring festival. We claimed a study area in my dorm and used paper bowl and party cups to mix the ingredients.
We used to go to my grandma’s place for every holiday. She is the most amazing cook. We would be hanging around the first floor and all attracted to the kitchen by the scent when the food is almost ready.
There’s always some aspect of food tradition lost  that digital connection could not quite solve.

Is there something we can do to strengthen the connection in distance?
Design Principles
As a product for strengthening family bounds, it should be friendly to use for all generations.
Each family has their own tradition already, our product should only accentuate the experience.
In order to make remote communication due to COVID more desirable, the product should be engaging to users and invoke connections beyond screens.
Each team member came up with 15 distinct ideas (vary in scenario or interaction) based on the three principles.
Down Selection
From the 60 ideas, we selected three distinct ideas.

-detract from digital,
-augmented interaction,
-a new dimension of communication.
Interactive family recipe book that engages and teaches the kids while traditional meals are being prepared.
Smart countertop that enhances cooking experience.
An aroma dispenser that lets family members share scent in distance.
But wait,
How does scent
transfer through wires?
As current study suggests, it’s possible to digitize scent and recreate scent through neuron-stimulation. Although the details of such technology have not been flushed out yet, we believe in a future that such technology is easy and cheap enough to implement for the purpose of this project.
We decided to pursue the aroma dispenser for it’s ingenuity and mixed aspects of digital and physical interactions.
Participatory Design
Olfactory interface has little pre-defined knowledge in the industry. Thus we decided to use participatory design workshop hoping to gain inspiration from the participants(users/experts).

Focusing on understanding the necessary function and form, we came up with an one-hour participatory design workshop.
1. Draw your favorite meal (10 min)
Participants are asked to draw out their favorite meals and list a few points on why these are their favorite meals, how they felt when enjoying the meal.

The first activity is an ice breaker that prompts participants to start thinking about the topic of food traditions. We hope this drawing activity also brings them into a creative mindset.
A bowl of spicy chicken salad.
Steamed pork covered with rice powder.
2. Verbal role-play (15 min)
Participants were asked to answer questions based on the following role-playing prompt:

You have been given a device that can help you and your family/friends share your cooking aromas.

Without previous understanding of form, we want to know in what scenario might the participants want to use this product, what are some expectations and needs.
3. Build a dispenser (20 min)
This is an extension of the previous activity.

Participants were then prompted to sketch out their ideal aroma dispenser and were reminded to label their aroma dispenser’s features and/or other unique functions.

The focus on the thought process of the participants’ design. Why are certain function shown on the device, why are some hidden, why dose certain form inform scent interactions...
A bowl of spicy chicken salad.
An ice cream shaped device that could be taken anywhere.
An ice cream shaped device that could be taken anywhere.
“This product should have a function to hold the smell until recipients want to open it. Just like Instant Messaging apps, senders should be able to send olfactory messages anytime, and recipients can experience the smell after pressing the accept button.”
4. Enacting (15 min)
Have participants collect a small object (i.e. tissue box, candle, etc.) to begin a role-playing exercise. Ask participants to vocally walk the interviewer through the use of the imaginary aroma dispenser.

We ask participants to get off the table and walk around their surroundings with the object. Though such physical context, we hope to provoke speculative thinking and find some apparent problems.
Combination with other means of sharing, such as visual or auditory cues, can assist in enriching & enhancing the scent-sharing experience.

Considering the device’s daily usage, participants expressed the most value for convenience, aesthetics, and privacy.
Form exploration
To address aesthetics, privacy concerns, and scenario limits, we decided to make the aroma dispenser a center piece of the kitchen.

We envision an aroma dispenser that fits well in most homes, soft and approachable to use. Most importantly, an intuitive olfactory related shape.
Smello! is an olfactory messaging IoT that allows people in distance to communicate through the sense of smell.
sits as an aesthetic lamp
pick up the scent by suck in the air
send scent through texts
lights up when you have a scent message
squeeze to experience the scent
Friendly Construction
Smello lamp is made of soft silicone, which is soft and  approachable to any user.
Intuitive Interaction
To experience scent, squeeze the smello like a balloon. The harder you squeeze, the stronger the scent.
Clear Indication
Three indicator lights corresponds to light scent, medium scent, and strong scent.
Aesthetic Charging
Smello sits on it’s wooden wireless charging dock when not being used.

In rest state, it is a nice decoration of your kitchen.
As class deliverable, we created a poster and demo video that explains the basic outline of our vision.
Many thanks to our friends that agreed to participate in our research and provided valuable insight.

Many thanks to our instructor Audrey D. for her guidance and support.
Adjacent User Privacy
UI/UX Research