Six Sense Sniffer
Airborne information has been investigated for influencing people’s memories and emotions intimately. According to research, 140 kinds of olfactory signals have been discovered so far. Among various airborne communicational signals, pheromone plays an essential role in these alternative communication. Pheromones, also known as the six sense, are given off innately by plants, animals and human beings. These odorless chemical molecules play an essential role in socially relevant emotions such as fear, aggression and contentment, inducing innate responses and corresponding stimuli. Six Sense Sniffer is a speculative design which functions an augment reality wearable device for invisible information in the air, which intends to arouse imaginations about potential scenarios in the near future. Will people become more empathetic as they are able to be aware of others through pheromone communication? Even more, is it possible to produce pheromone weapon in order to control others unconsciously?
Initiation and Research
Our body odors are our unique identities resulting from different genes we have, carrying various kinds of chemosensory signals according to Stern and McClintock. In other words, body odors are mediums holding informations for alternative non-verbal communication in the same species. Within distinct components of our body odors, pheromone and signature mixtures (mainly made of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)), both are volatile and soluble, have been identified of relation to unconscious behaviors from distinguished aspects such as synchronization of women’s ovulation and menstrual cycle. While signature mixtures are more related to identity, mate selection and sexual attraction, pheromones control more dynamic information including regulation of empathic feelings and processing of social emotional stimuli by triggering certain receptors in the brain. Unlike common olfactory signals going through main olfactory system(MOS) evoking sensation of smell, pheromones are detected through the second channel in our noses, the vomeronasal organ (VNO), trance-amine-associated receptors and Gruenberg ganglion cells, inputting to hypothalamic neurons controlling our behaviors, which is regarded as the six sense.
Since pheromone is invisible and odorless but almost everywhere, the challenge is how to design an experience allowing people to be aware of it? Inspired by one of my favorite VR pieces "In the Eyes of the Animal", I made a VR experience inviting people to immerse in this setting. Under similar effect like infrared, people are able to see the "invisible" in this virtual space. Particles systems are attached to various animals, representing pheromones emitted from them. Sound of animals at different locations function as both background environment and guides for players to find them. Players are able to control which kind of pheromones they would like to emit in order to attract or repel animals.
However, purely visual experience lacks interactivity and makes people less engaged and convinced. Inspired by "Objective Realities" by automato.farm, I planed to integrate tangible interaction into the experience. Since human's olfactory sensation is less powerful comparing to animals', why not make a device to augment this ability so that people are able to detect pheromones like other animals?
Because of limitations due to structures and positions of our noses, the device was less adaptable than a goggle. Also, there were few wearable devices for noses that I can refer to. Therefore, I started to study human olfactory sensation in order to get some inspirations. After some researches, I made the whole design look like a giant sensory cell and referred to human olfactory cell in many parts in my final design.
I tested with three kinds of plastic wires and strings in order to mimic cilia as detectors. The hardest one had the best performance while being driven by a servo motor. Next, I tried different random and delay functions in Arduino to achieve an ideal movement of cilia. And I made a removable filter using bristol paper with holes on it for holding cilia. Also, I used softer wires for cilia on the sides as secondary receptors.
Since the device is supposed to transfer odor, which is transparent, I decided to use vinyl tubing as a connection to attach the device to the back of ears while indicating the axon of a cell.
I would like to focus more on the storytelling part of the VR game and make the tangible interaction better integrate into a seamless virtual experiences.
Blakeslee, Sandra. "Human Nose May Hold An Additional Organ For a Real Sixth Sense." The New York Times. 1993.
Brennan, Peter A., and Frank Zufall. "Pheromonal Communication in Vertebrates." Nature 444, no. 7117 (2006): 308-15.
Cutler, Winnifred B., Erika Friedmann, and Norma L. McCoy. "Pheromonal Influences on Sociosexual Behavior in Men." Archives of Sexual Behavior 28, no. 1 (1998).
Filsinger, Erik E., and Richard A. Fabes. "Odor Communication, Pheromones, and Human Families." Journal of Marriage and Family 47, no. 2 (1985): 349-59.
Hays, Warren S. T. "Human Pheromones: Have They Been Demonstrated?" Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 54, no. 2 (2003): 89-97.
Stern, Kathleen, and Martha K. Mcclintock. "Regulation of Ovulation by Human Pheromones." Nature 392, no. 6672 (1998): 177-79.
Weller, Aron. "Human Pheromones: Communication through Body Odour." Nature 392, no. 6672 (1998): 126-27.