Today's featured creator is Benjamin Redford, creator of Olly, the Smelly Robot that connects to the web. He's a smartly designed, stackable little guy that turns your notifications into scents: your boyfriends perfume for when he tweets you, a burst of citrus for when your alarm goes off, buttered popcorn for when it's movie time. The possibilities seem endless!
I'm Ben, I'm from Manchester, England and work for a company called Mint Digital in London. I had a part in the creation of Olly — The web connected smelly robot.
How did you come up with this idea? What's so special about the sense of smell?
A few months ago I was involved in a research team called Mint Foundry. We were sent the brief: "Make something that is connected to the internet that doesn't live on a screen." The idea of rewarding people in the physical world for stuff that was happening in their virtual worlds really interested us. However, we wanted something that wasn't as insignificant or fleeting as a Facebook like or a re-tweet. Smell seemed like the perfect real world comparison.
There's something about the passive wafting of smells that seems at odds with the speed and instant gratification of the internet. How do you think Olly will affect people's perceptions of what happens online?
I read an article the other day that said most people between the ages of 18 and 25 would rather give up their sense of smell than one of their electronic devices like a laptop, or a phone, and yet, smell is the most powerful sense for creating and recollecting memories. We see so much stuff now, but don't really remember any of it. So who knows? Maybe Olly will create more meaningful memories of our increasing online experiences and interactions, or maybe it's a blessing that we forget most of the stuff we see on the web.
What kind of scents can you put in it, and how? Presumably I am not supposed to put a slab of bacon into poor Olly to get a sniff of bacon.
We've been using essential oils which work really well and are pretty easy to get hold of. You can just dropper them into the drawer at the back of Olly and they'll last a good while. We've also been talking to synthetic scent manufacturers who can make the really crazy smells like bubblegum, petrol, and sewage. We'll let you know how that goes. PS: Bacon is awesome! The smell of bacon has been known to wake people up from deep sleep — like a smelly alarm clock.
What's your favorite way to use Olly right now?
We had a little hack session for Olly the other night and I think my favorite thing that came out of that was to activate Olly every time Snoop Dog got a new follower on Instagram. Ace.
What's next for Olly?
Well, he's stackable so other modules can be added to him. We're currently working on a new module for one of the other senses which is really cool. I can't tell you which one yet, but it should be done soon!