Experiment

Social Wings

Client: N/A - for fun

Role: Service Designer, Maker 

Duration: 1 week, October 2018

Team: 4 designers

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Context

Extra thoughts

I took part in a one week multidisciplinary workshop to create a narrative and physical intervention (e.g. jewellery, clothing, performative object, device) offering different responses to the senses of 'touch' and 'smell' within different speculative or future scenarios.

What we designed

A wearable diffuser that will turn you into a social butterfly. Feeling bored and fancy a chat? The social scent diffuser acts as a bonding system between strangers. In all public spaces, from train stations to libraries, your Social Wings will automatically release a scent when you connect with someone around you that shares common interest. Use your sense of smell to find a companion to chat with and feel you wearable vibrate as you get closer and closer. 

How we got there

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We were inspired by the social nature of dogs when on a walk in Hyde Park and dogs' use of their sense of smell. We wanted to create a new normal for how humans interact with one another and give more power to our sense of smell and touch.

Brainstorming associations and ideas around touch and smell.

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Building a narrative around our scenario, inspired by story telling techniques.

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Sampling a lot of scents and considering the use of active and passive scent releasers.

Passive: (no energy needed to release smell)

- Reed diffuser

- Absorbent pads

- Ceramics

- Textiles and fabrics

- Silica

Active:

- Humidifiers/mist

- Candles and heat releasers

- Fans/air pumps

- Cosmetics

- Atomisers

The prototype

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Due to the story of our narrative, we decided against these initial designs and selected designs that mimicked the motion or characteristics of a (social) butterfly. 

A glimpse into the making process.

We programmed an Arduino to pump air connected to a mini fan every 10 seconds. The fan was attached to a rubber tube which circulated a scented airflow to a metal tube which was moulded and welded into shape with scent release holes carved in.

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The final design

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How it works

Place the  Social Wings of your choice on your hand or over your ear. Simply activate it using the switch to connect to your new chatting companion.

Lessons learnt and reflections

One week isn't a long time, but similar to 'sprints', we were surprised by how much we could achieve in a limited time. As there was no client for this, we really wanted it to be a chance for us to have a bit of fun and learn something new, for me this was the alchemy of scents, how to weld and make jewellery, and helping set up and programme our Arduino. It was a high energy week, with a "yes let's try it and see what happens" kind of attitude which I think was reflected in our final design.

With special thanks to

Wan-Ting Tseng, RCA Innovation Design Engineering visiting lecturer
Jack O’Leary McNeice, RCA
Innovation Design Engineering alumnus
Anna Nolda Nagele, CSM graduate, future storyteller

Harry Sherwood, Scent engineer

This project was done in collaboration with Leah Mentzis, Thomas Hartley and Zhenzhu Wang.