We all know what it means when the little Twitter bird icon pops up in the status bar, accompanied by whatever sound or vibration you've set your device to make when someone pimps or trolls you online, but why shouldn't notifications also have a distinctive scent? And how about something a little more tangible and tactile than a tiny touchscreen icon?
Fortunately, Sriram Subramanian, professor of human-computer Interaction in the University of Bristol Interaction and Graphics group, is out to create a more multisensory notifications regime.
"The human sense of smell is powerful, but there are few research systems that explore and examine ways to use it," Subramanian said in a release announcing Sensabubble, a system that allows colors, text, and icons to be projected on bubbles filled with a scented fog. "We have taken the first steps to explore how smell can be used to enhance and last longer in a visual object such as a soap bubble."
So imagine you're running an application like Tweetdeck in the background on a desktop system connected to Sensabubble and someone mentions you on Twitter. Sensabubble could create a predetermined small, medium, or large soap bubble and send it drifting into your field of view while projecting the Twitter icon onto its surface. If you're interested in pursuing such a distraction, you could pop that tweet bubble to release the longer-lasting scent within. Perhaps it's a sweet rose scent that lets you know your crush is tweeting about you. That's definitely worth being distracted by.
Sensabubble isn't exactly portable at the moment, and the prototype seems a bit unwieldy and impractical at first, but Subramanian implores us to consider the possibilities for custom uses in realms like museums, advertising, or education.
"There are many areas in which bubble-based technology like SensaBubble could be applied, such as a SensaBubble clock that releases the number of scented bubbles corresponding to the hour or SensaBubble Maths, an educational game for children, which incorporates smell as feedback on their success."
A research paper on Sensabubble will be presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, which begins Saturday in Toronto.
More details and a demonstration in the video below. Let us know in the comments how you might put this kind of technology to work.