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Art class stinks! Learn with smell in art class using this olfactory display

Arduino TeamSeptember 22nd, 2022

By Maria Nikoli, Interaction Designer, MSc., Malmö University

Smelling is crucial to our everyday living. But how well do we really understand the role that smells play in our day-to-day? Ask someone who temporarily lost their sense of smell because of COVID-19. They’ll probably tell you about how incredibly boring eating became all of a sudden, and how their roomies saved them from eating a foul-smelling, spoiled block of cheese that had zero mold on it. 

The sense of smell is super important, as it makes life pleasurable, and helps us detect danger. It’s also intrinsically connected to memory and emotion. You probably know what it’s like to smell something and get an instant flashback – it almost feels like time travel. 

Yet, olfaction (a fancy word for the sense of smell) is often overlooked in both HCI and art education. Building on that, “Art Class Stinks!” is an interactive system for learning with smell in art class while helping the students become more aware of their sense of smell.

The prototype consists of two components. The first component is a mobile app that guides the user through processes of learning and being creative with smell, gives instructions for creative tasks and smell awareness tasks, and archives the users’ art. The second component is an olfactory display (OD). The OD consists of a scent kit and an Arduino-powered interactive board equipped with LED lights and RFID tag readers. Navigating the app, the user gets prompted to do several creative tasks using the scents for inspiration. They also get prompted to do smell identification tasks to raise their own awareness of their sense of smell. The interactive board links each scent note to the software and also indicates the ways in which the user can sniff the scent notes. 

Find out more about this project on Instagram (@marianikolistudio) and Malmö University’s digital archive.