On-Face Olfactory Interfaces

 Judith Amores

We envision that a close-to-nose interface could be used as a complementary or alternative wearable method to nasal cannulas or masks,  commonly used in medicine to deliver drugs to the body.

On-face wearables are currently limited to piercings, tattoos, or interactive makeup that aesthetically enhances the user, and have been minimally used for scent-delivery methods. However, on-face scent interfaces could provide an advantage for personal scent delivery in comparison with other modalities or body locations since they are closer to the nose. We present the mechanical and industrial design details of a series of form factors for on-face olfactory wearables that are lightweight and can be adhered to the skin or attached to glasses or piercings. The user can activate the scent release via a custom-made smartphone app that connects to the prototype.

User Study

We assessed the usability of three prototypes by testing with 12 participants in a within-subject study design while they were interacting in pairs at a close personal distance. We compare two of these designs with an "off-face" olfactory necklace and evaluate their social acceptance, comfort as well as perceived odor intensity for both the wearer and observer.

Potential Applications

Millions of people around the world suffer from stress, anxiety, and loss of attention, affecting their personal and professional lives. One of the most common sources of stress in the United States is work. Stress and anxiety impact workplace performance, the quality of the work as well as the relationship with superiors and coworkers. Thus, a growing number of technologies aim to bring more calmness in people’s daily life, and help them be more mindful and present in the moment. We believe that on-face olfactory interfaces could provide subtle cues for breathing exercises and support mindfulness practices in public settings, while working in an open office, library, or driving a vehicle, without disturbing others.  We envision that a close-to-nose interface could be used as a drug delivery device instead of using nasal cannulas or masks, to deliver a small amount of liquid medicine or hormones such as oxytocin directly to the nostrils throughout the day and night.  On-face olfactory devices can be coupled with board or Virtual Reality games by transferring hidden information only to the wearer. We also envision that people could customize the aesthetics of the device and match it to their fashion, cultural believes, jewelry, or piercings. Finally, these devices could be used to augment culinary experiences by releasing bursts of scent very close to the mouth and nose.

Treatment of asthma by inhaled drugs began in earnest in the 1950s, and now such 'topical' or targeted treatment with inhaled drugs is considered for treating many other lung diseases.*

* Patton JS, Byron PR. Inhaling medicines: delivering drugs to the body through the lungs. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2007;6(1):67-74. doi:10.1038/nrd2153

CHI 2020 Remote Presentation