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full thesis:

  • in PDF Format (recommended, but 16MB)
  • in automatically-generated and somewhat hard to parse HTML format (500K + 2MB images)



This thesis explores the problems and possibilities of computer-controlled scent output. I begin with a thorough literature review of how we smell and how scents are categorized. I look at applications of aroma through the ages, with particular emphasis on the role of scent in information display in a variety of media. I then present and discuss several projects I have built to explore the use of computer-controlled olfactory display, and some pilot studies of issues related to such display.

  I quantify human physical limitations on olfactory input, and conclude that olfactory display must rely on differences between smell, and not differences in intensity of the same smell. I propose a theoretical framework for scent in human-computer interactions, and develop concepts of olfactory icons and ‘smicons’. I further conclude that scent is better suited for display of slowly changing, continuous information than discrete events. I conclude with my predictions for the prospects for symbolic, computer-controlled, olfactory display.

Other Relevant Information

Full annotated reference list
A course I taught in January 2001 on smell
My final proposal (MS Word format)