Nosewise – Smell based interaction

Nosewise is a research project I am working on in collaboration between researchers Jonas Olofsson at Stockholm University, Simon Niedenthal from Malmö University, and audio engineer Peter Lundén working at Stockholm University. The purpose is to create a platform for smell training. What intrigues me about the project is the opportunity to form an understanding of how and if smell can be an active component of gameplay and interaction. Since smell was introduced in multimedia, it has mainly been used in an atmospheric and passive way.

Design process

Starting out, I have performed design research to construct an understanding of olfactory research in general. This has lead me to read everything from scientific articles about olfactory navigation experiments with rodents, play testing smell based board games, looking at general game industry advice and some more artistic exploration of how smell can be visualized.

scentVid from Marie Ehrndal on Vimeo.

Design patterns

To mention a couple of design patterns I have seen emerging from this initial research and sketching process, I made a short list below:

- The visual design is greatly constrained. Graphics and representations need to be carefully thought through in all scenarios where the player is supposed to specify or match smells. Players are highly suggestible.

- Smells can crudely be categorized in relation to emotions, and could thus be suitable for communication purposes. It can also be worth looking into how different people associate smells to specific colors.

- The fun and replayability values do not need to co-exist with the data collection. Different modes can have different purposes, and just like in other classical psychological experiments, what the test subject thinks is the goal may not be the actual goal of the experiment.

- Smell interaction is slow, and this of course affects the pacing of the game. The mind has a sort of smell fatigue after some time, which suggests the gameplay loops need to be quite short.

These are a couple of the many patterns I have started to see this early in the research and design process. I am aiming to start prototyping this summer, so that we can actually test a couple of concepts and see what we find.

Game concepts and prototyping

Up until now I have created several game concepts, and have realized one of them. The first environment I prepared presented users with two glowing scented spheres that they could grab and smell.


The user tests clearly showed a need for a re-design since the handheld prototype and the spherical design was misleading the users in regards to the direction of the smell. In the second iteration, I went past intuitive design, and designed a device that users could attach lab flasks to. This design proved to be much more usable since it clearly indicated where the scent came from.


So far, I have created an environment to evaluate the scent emitter, where users sort two different scents – Lemon and Lilac. During the test session I record data on how much time they spend with each smell as well as the score. I am currently preparing an environment where users are supposed to move around in a bigger environment to find scented objects. This post will be updated when the design has been prepared and tested.

My role

- UX, play, and game design

- 3D modeling, basic animation and graphics creation

- Prototyping and development