sacks of spices at a spice market; picture from www.corbis.com
Jofish Kaye, Aleksandra Szelag
The domain of the kitchen is an exciting one, full of rich sensory
information - smells, tastes, textures and sounds. It's the center of
communication in the home - the phone is the appliance most used - and
it's the center of the family, where the family meets to discuss and
interact and eat together.
The technology necessary to digitally record the experience is smell is
improving rapidly, with a great deal of research coming from the food
sciences and other industries. The production of smells in any realistic
way remains a far more difficult problem. inStink starts to look at a
method of communicating smells and thus sharing and communicating in a
non-visual, non-audio manner.
We cannot currently reliably recreate the smells of a particular piece of
meat cooking, or a particular roasting red pepper. But cooking does have
the advantage of using a palette of smells and tastes in the forms of
My spice rack at home has some forty spices, in transparent octagonal
spice boxes located behind the stove. Cooking Indian food means garam
masala and tumeric, Italian food means oregano and peppers, while baking
gingerbread means the warm smells of cloves and nutmeg and ginger. By
simply keeping track of which spices are being used, it's possible to
build up an idea of the environment being created. We transmit the
information along with other sensory information - the music being played,
sound and video from the kitchen - to start to recreate connect spaces
that may be emotionally close but physically distant.
We propose a digitally augmented spice rack that can both act as an input
device and an output device. As an input device, it keeps track of which
spices are being used, and transmits that information to the remote
kitchen. As an output device, it gently releases the scent of the spice
being used. Combined with existing technologies for transmitting video
and audio, and possibly even prototype devices for transmitting touch, we
can continue towards a goal of allowing emotional and social interaction,
regardless of physical distance.