Project

BioEssence

Judith Amores

A wearable olfactory display that monitors cardio-respiratory information to support mental wellbeing.

BioEssence is a novel wearable olfactory display that provides just-in-time release of scents based on the physiological state of the wearer. The device can release up to three scents and passively captures subtle chest vibrations associated with the beating of the heart and respiration through clothes. 

A wearable olfactory display that monitors cardio-respiratory information to support mental wellbeing.

BioEssence is a novel wearable olfactory display that provides just-in-time release of scents based on the physiological state of the wearer. The device can release up to three scents and passively captures subtle chest vibrations associated with the beating of the heart and respiration through clothes. 

Applications

 Due to the wearable form factor, BioEssence facilitates real-life just-in-time olfactory interventions that consider the physiology of the user. This section describes some of the main mental wellbeing applications.

Stress and Anxiety

Odors modulate emotion and cognition and have been successfully used to treat certain psychological problems such as stress or anxiety. Lavender scent has been one of the most commonly used fragrances to reduce anxiety at the dentist or during test taking. As stress and anxiety tend to increase both heart rate and breathing rate, BioEssence offers the possibility of automatically detecting relevant episodes and triggering scents when most needed.

Sleep

Several studies have explored the use of scent to help induce sleep due to its potential calming effects. For instance, Field et al. used lavender to help improve the quality of sleep. In a separate study, Schredl et al. demonstrated that certain smells can also be used to influence the emotional valence of dreams. In particular, they showed that the scent of roses during sleep yielded more positive dreams, while the scent of rotten eggs (H2S) resulted in negative ones. In this case, researchers used a 60 cm tube to connect the nose to a stationary olfactometer. As in the other scenarios, BioEssence could offer a more comfortable solution that is less likely to disrupt the person while sleeping. In addition, the on-board accelerometer could be used to track other parameters such as sleep stages.

Depression


Some studies have shown the possibility of using essential oils such as citrus fragrance or rose scent to relief depressive symptoms. Interestingly, there is some work suggesting how sweet-smells could be used to treat depression by “fooling” the brain glucose level sensors. As in previous cases, BioEssence could facilitate the study of these effects in real-life and be used to provide more frequent interventions which are needed to achieve a long lasting effect.

Pain

Several studies have shown that odors can influence the perception of pain. For instance, Prescott and Wilkie performed a study in which participants wore a mask covering the nose and mouth with different types of scents, and showed that those with sweet-smelling characteristics increased pain tolerance. Another study used lavender scent to significantly decrease women’s pain when giving birth by manually rubbing their hands to let them inhale the essential oil. In addition of tracking relevant physiological parameters, BioEssence would enable a more passive scent delivery method that would be more appropriate when undergoing pain episodes.

Previous Work

The work presented here builds on top of an earlier prototype called "Essence," which provided a single scent and relied on external wearable devices to monitor physiological parameters. In contrast, BioEssence can deliver up to three scents simultaneously and provides a self-contained solution for physiological sensing. Therefore, the current form factor allows for a wider range of stimuli and comfortable monitoring of the physiology throughout the process.