The Amazing McScent™ Machine

My NYU—ITP thesis project would not have been possible without Dan O’Sullivan and Nick West, my two advisors.  Dan taught me how to program the BASIC stamp and Nick helped me integrate 3D graphics from YORB (an ITP-wide 3D world project) into my virtual neighborhood. Amee Evans and Leo Villareal loaned me movies for the 3D interiors for my “scented” homes in the project.

Materials

A computer running a beta version of Macromedia Director 4.0 (code-named TOFU), two monitors (one being a touchscreen), a BASIC stamp, Radio Shack circuit board with bits and pieces, one modified serial cable, three fish tank air pumps, three tubes leading from the pumps into glass beakers containing essential oils (lilac, cotton candy, and Australian bush oil).

The Experience

Two monitors side by side:  on the right-hand side, a touch-screen monitor that had three wads of felt tied onto suction cups stuck onto its black screen. The monitor on the left displayed this simple graphic while a loop of didgeridoo music played.

main

Then a quick fly-through of a street in a YORB neighborhood and the viewer approaches a house.  This is what a viewer would see next.

house1

If the viewer/user/participant clicked “Smell This House?” she would see a short animation leading to the door and the sound of a knock on the door.  One then saw Leo’s twirling creepy clown, Amee’s elegant living room, or my QuickTime movie of  my beloved’s home in Australia.

Meanwhile, Director would send a message via the modified serial cable to the BASIC stamp to turn on AC power leading to one of the three fish tank air pumps. While someone looked at Amee’s movie of a living room, the smell of lilac was being pumped into the air.  Likewise Leo’s house automagically emitted the sickening smell of cotton candy while the viewer watched his “Drunken Clown” movie.

At the end of the road the screen displays a tunnel-like “time-warp” from in order to simulate the passage of time.  One of Beethoven’s cello sonatas in a minor key, played by Jaqueline Dupree, accompanied that 3D animation.

Then, on the right-hand monitor this image would appear whilst Aretha Franklin belted out:

This is the house that Jack built y’all
Remember this house!

sniffNchoose

Voila!

From the scented felt swatches stuck to the monitor, a viewer could use her sense of smell to revisit one of the three identical homes: lilac for Amee’s elegant living room, cotton candy for Leo’s big top or Australian bush oil (from a market on Oxford Street in Sydney) for my house.