These Arduino Projects want you to Smell Them!

April 13, 2016 by Katrina Barhouse

Arduinos are now being used to produce smells, although, some applications are more scientific than others.

Arduinos are now being used to produce smells, although, some applications are more scientific than others.

I came across some interesting applications using an Arduino Uno that produce smells. Although they use similar technology, their uses are vastly different. One is used for social media notifications, the other can be used in tandem with virtual and augmented reality to recreate the smells in ancient ruins!  


This application adapts the design of the Olly Smelly Robot to interface with a geographic data-infused augmented reality environment. Olly is an open source Arduino Uno based device that simply uses a fan and a USB connection to your computer to notify you through a burst of an infused smell when you receive a notification on an array of social media platforms. This pleasantly discrete device is simple to make and program, thanks to the open-source instructions on their website. Mint Digital, Olly Factory's parent company, also makes the Polly, which gives you a piece of candy whenever you receive a tweet.


The Olly Stack. Courtesy of Olly Factory 

Dead Man’s Nose

How could I resist an unexpected encounter with something as commonplace to an engineer like myself as an Arduino, within a field of science as interesting as archaeology? Simply triggering an olfactory response piqued the interest of archaeologist Dr. Stuart Eve behind the Dead Man’s Nose, and led to his prototype and award from the University of York’s Heritage Jam in the category of “Highly Commended” in 2015. The Dead Man’s Nose itself consists of an Arduino Uno, wireless/Bluetooth module, battery power, and a fan for each desired scent. The Dead Man’s Nose, worn by the user, is triggered by an application developed in Unity programmed with a GPS map of smells. Implemented on a mobile device, this pre-programmed data correlates smells to specific GPS locations, whereupon the app triggers the fan(s) to gently waft the smell as the user approaches a specific location. Increasing in intensity as the user gets closer to the specific location, the smells allow the user to fully experience what a particular archaeological or historical site might have been like.


A Dead Man's Nose. Courtesy of Dead Men's Eyes


My mind starts to race at the possibilities of an application like this. Imagine interfacing the Dead Man’s Nose with VR goggles like the Oculus Rift or Stuart’s other project, the Dead Man’s Eye. Imagine not even having to visit ancient ruins to see and smell it in its time. With new laser technology archaeologists are able to create more accurate 3D models of artifacts than they ever were able to do before.

With the Dead Man’s Eye, 3D models of  archaeological buildings and artifacts can be superimposed with your current environment. The prototype shows the archaeological landscape through an app on an iPad and its GPS, however, it is easy to imagine the possibilities of an application such as this were scaled for use with VR technology. Applications such as this one are ideal for demonstrating the power of engineering knowledge in fields stereotypically void of engineering. An uninvolved passerby might have thought Electrical Engineering and Archaeology completely independent fields of study, however, we see that is positively not the case with the Dead Man’s Nose. Understanding industries other than your own can only create more innovative and otherwise unseen solutions. You can see how the Dead Man's Nose works in the video below.