Adelaide Road
Curzon Memories
Escape from the Tower
Gorillaz: Escape To Plastic Beach
If Only
Our Broken Voice
Sculpting With Scent
Surreptitious Soundplay
Theatre JukeBOX

Sculpting With Scent

Sculpting With Scent combines complex sensory impressions to form ‘a poem inspired by cinema and made with scent’. During each of four spoken word monologues (inspired by scenes from the Sofia Coppolla film Lost in Translation) a pebble-like device begins to glow, inviting the user to pick it up. It releases a scent that is the olfactory version of what the soundtrack is describing. The specially created scents, voice monologues, light and vibration combine together to evoke an imagined sense of place. The immersive effect of the smell plus the sound but without the picture is compelling evidence of the potential for experience design that uses more than just our audio visual senses.


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Creative director/designer
An expert transmedia writer
A creative technologist
A selection of electronics: Arduino mainboard, XBee mWmodule, Accelerometer, Vibe Board, LEDs
A variety of scents
A range of materials to test
A lot of space
People sharing the space who don’t mind scent experiments

Cooks Tip

Use Sandbox funding to create a space to do invaluable R&D, unconstrained by the requirements of a client.

Raising Agent

Media Sandbox 2010 was produced by iShed in association with Bristol City Council and Connecting Bristol’s B-Open initiative and is a Creative Industries iNet programme, supported by South West Screen, ERDF and South West Regional Development Agency.


Apply for Media Sandbox funding and use it to create time and space to do invaluable R&D, unconstrained by the requirements of a client.

Research different ways that smells or scents can be delivered in a controlled way, either localised or dispersed, using a range of low or high-tech devices

Think about creative uses of scent to evoke meaning as well as smell.

Meet with a UK-based manufacturer of scent-dispersal units and talk to them about using some of their units and technical assistance. Examine two models of user interaction that seem most useful:

The Scent Tunnel: a controlled (possibly enclosed) environment where scent is dispersed at intervals of time and/or space. The environment could also limit other sensory inputs i.e. be dark, silent, creating an immersive experience.

Scent Pebbles: Hand control of the experience to the user. Use work from a previous concept where individual, sculpted objects would ‘explain’ each of the notes in their new fragrance through both smell and touch. So for instance Pink Peppercorn would feel abrasive and sharp to augment the smell experience.

Experiment with infusing scents into modelling clay and giving it texture, then try this with a few different materials – look for something that can either be moulded or shaped with standard tools, feels right, is odour-free and retains scent accurately. Use materials that are easy to work with, cheap and readily available, with low or no odour and the ability to retain scent accurately and for long periods of time.

Test a variety of materials (wax, engineered paper, wood, fimo, felt) with differing concentrations of both strong and weak scents to access their suitability.

Find that Fimo (or plaster) has the ability to encapsulate a scent and retain it strongly without modifying it. Both materials also have the property of not releasing the liquid scent base, unlike both paper and felt . They are both also easily mouldable into different shapes.

Allow a lot of time and energy to research the best shape for an object that the user will find inviting. You want them to pick up the object and feel comfortable bringing them up to their face.

Decide to use a pebble shape; it has to be smooth, not too cold to the touch and of a size where you can actually close your fingers around it because that seems to give a much more personal and intimate relationship with the object.

Create a group of inviting, smart pebble shaped objects that not only carry the individual scents but also that tell the user the order and duration in which to smell them. The experience is a combination of the individual scents, the physicality of the objects and the state changes in the objects that pull the user through the experience.

To work out how to pack a light source, a vibration motor and a tone generator into the objects, speak to Dan Williams, the PMStudio’s creative technologist. Ensure each object can also contain an accelerometer to detect when it’s been picked up, and trigger a change in its behaviour.

Investigate the kinds of smells that aren’t normally used commercially to allow people to experience them as stories. If you want the smell of cut grass or wet concrete you need to assemble a number of odorant molecules into a specific blend that give you that scent. Some molecules can give you extremely complex smells on their own. It’s an ephemeral thing but what you’ll take away is a little picture memory that those odours have created in your mind.

Use cinematic stories as a starting point for the scent stories, then accompany the smell experience with a single line or sentence that will help locate the user in the narrative and give them some context for the smells.

Finish by matching the smells to the feelings evoked by the stories and combine with the rest of the research to create a unique installation.

Diners Comments

The combination of scent, sound and image strongly evoked a scene. One could imagine oneself in a bar on the top floor of a Tokyo hotel or in the room of a lonely traveller. As a form of immersive drama it really worked for me. I could imagine how the Moksha technology could be used to create elaborate and highly personalised narratives.


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