This Device Translates Colors Into Smells

You knew it was a good day in ’80s when your graded homework assignment came back with a scratch-and-sniff sticker. Typically speaking, certain colors were always associated with particular scents, such as brown for chocolate, red for apple, yellow for banana, pink for cotton candy, and so forth.

Fast forward a couple decades, and a group of ÉCAL students under the guidance of Niklas Roy have developed a synesthetic device that translates colors into smells in a somewhat similar fashion… without the scratching, of course.

The cone-shaped gadget has an optical sensor in its tip, which can recognize various colors (📷: Niklas Roy)

While most of us still long for Smell-O-Vision, the team had set out to explore the creative potential of fragrance as a user interface for augmented reality. The project — called “Bouquet” — comes in the form of a cone equipped with an optical sensor at its tip, along with an Arduino, a SparkFun EasyDriver, and a stepper motor-controlled disc that turns pads with according scents under the nose of the user.

The hardware setup consisted of an Arduino, a color sensor, an EasyDriver, and a stepper motor. (📷: Niklas Roy)

According to Roy:

If you’d point it to a red color for example, the disc would turn a cotton pad, which is soaked with strawberry aroma, to the device’s smell opening.
The students found some great natural smells for the different colors. Representing blue turned out to be a bit of a challenge, though. At the end, they decided to translate it to the fresh artificial smell of a chemical “Blue Ocean” room fragrance, which was fitting very well.

As shown in the video below, the students finished off the project with a series of colorful posters that onlookers could experience for themselves. You can see more of Bouquet on Roy’s website.