Sending smells by text and other things you didn’t know about UK research


Article in the Guardian Newspaper

Sending smells by text and other things you didn’t know about UK research

University researchers tell us about their groundbreaking research – and why they want the public to know about it
    • Over 250 events took place in UK universities last week to celebrateUniversities Week – a five-day festivity where researchers leave the labs to share their work with the public. Now in its fourth year, the main event – and the biggest yet – took place at the Natural History Museum.


The researchers

Scentee app

City University staff modelling the Scentee app, ‘digital lollypop’…and some lemons. Photograph: City University

Adrian David Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University, London, featuring the phone that wakes you up to the smell of bacon

Tell me about your research
“We are trying to bring all the five senses to the internet, so we can transmit and communicate in a multisensory way.”

OK, so how does it work?
“We have a device called Scentee which you attach to your mobile phone. What it does is emit a puff of scent, such as bacon, coffee or lavender, (using chemical cartridges) when you send someone a text message. We have similar devices to produce taste using only electrical current. So if you’re cooking, you can send the taste and smell of your cooking to all of your Facebook friends. We are also looking at touch technology, making devices like RingU, where you connect your ring to the internet via your mobile phone. You can be thinking of your friend, who might be anywhere in the world, and squeeze your ring and they will then get a squeeze on their finger.”

Why should the public be interested in your research?
“Currently the internet is very much about audio and visual communication. But the sense of touch, taste and smell are very important in our physical communication – these senses are connected to the limbic system of the brain which is responsible for emotion and memory. So when you’re chatting online or Skyping, you actually lose a lot of the human emotion. We want to bring these senses to the internet so in the future you will be able to have a sense of presence.”

What are the challenges you face?
“There’s a saying that in the 21st century the most valuable research is time, because now with the internet we basically have infinite information. Yes, time and funding are very important, but you need to have some creativity. You need to have students who are willing to not do incremental work, but what I call quantum step work. In the atom the electrons will fly around in the one band, but that is incremental work. What you need to do is jump to the next quantum gap. We need to have young people who will become scientists and engineers, but it’s really great during education if they are exposed to the creative arts and other fields so they can understand creativity and design.

“We have to remove the barrier between academia and the public, and if you don’t, it is the universities that are going to suffer, because knowledge is going to become more and more free – and you are seeing this now with things like Ted talks. Universities and researchers have to keep up with the internet age and that’s very important to survive in the 21st century.”

What excites you about research?
“I want to invent completely new technology and push the barrier of knowledge. People might think it is really wacky or crazy at the time, but then when you can show them that it really works, you can get a lot of very positive feedback. The most important thing to do is to be totally original.”

Sparklab’s  Demo Day in Korea – Launch of RingU Version 1.0

On April 7th 2014 FeelU team members Adrian David Cheok, Jimmy Kim, Alex Namkung, Frank Meehan, Yongsoon Choi, and Jordan Tewell met up in Korea to give presentation and live demo of our product, Ring*U, to an audience on April 9th at Olleh Square in central Seoul. The event was organized by our investor in Korea, Spark Labs, for means of launching their sponsored startup companies. Seven teams along with FeelU pitched our idea to potential investors and collaborators attending the event. This was our first public reveal for Ring*U and our “one-to-many” and “many-to-one” user business model approach. We showed off the new latest prototype which featured full Bluetooth connectivity with our RingU app and a ring design that completely enclosed our hardware, a huge step forward from our older external box prototype.

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During the demo FeelU developers Jordan and Yongsoon took the stage and pretended to miss each other terribly. Then they showed how Ring*U could allow them to intimately communicate to show their feelings toward each other. Although the demo showed Jordan and Yongsoon in close proximity to each other, our demo could of worked just as well if Jordan had been in London. The demo was successful and it seemed we gathered much interest from the audience. We were even interviewed by a pair of journalists.

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The next step is to get a second stage of investment money to outsource the research and development to condense our hardware into something that can fit in a smaller, more fashionable ring. Our team is currently working on a revision of the demoed prototype to fix bugs and reduce the size further so we can use it in experiments planned in the future.

We had quite the welcome in Korea with our investor Jimmy Kim joining us for fabulous Korean pizza and a night out in Seoul. We thank him and Spark Labs for their tremendous support of our project and continue to look forward to the development of Ring*U toward our goal of releasing it later this year.

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City to stage Circus for the Senses

City to stage Circus for the Senses

Professor of Pervasive Computing, Professor Adrian Cheok, will showcase his path-breaking work on the multi-sensory internet from 9th to 11th June at the Natural History Museum during Universities Week 2014.

30 May 2014

City University London will be staging a Circus for the Senses at the National History Museum during Universities Week 2014.

The City stand will literally give visitors a feel and taste for the brave new world of Professor Adrian Cheok’s multi-sensory internet. It will feature the Scentee device which connects to a smartphone and emits the smell of one’s favourite meal. Also on display will be the first ever telehug ring and a digitally actuated lollipop to stimulate the taste buds.

nullProfessor Cheok, who is a Professor of Pervasive Computing in the School of Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering, is the founder and director of the Mixed Reality Lab.

He joined City last August from Keio University, Japan, where he was a professor in its Graduate School of Media Design. He has also previously been a senior academic at the National University of Singapore, and has worked in real-time systems, soft computing, and embedded computing at Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs, Japan. His research covers mixed reality, human-computer interfaces, wearable computers and ubiquitous computing, fuzzy systems, embedded systems and power electronics.

Professor Cheok’s work was recently featured on the BBC flagship technology programme, Click.

During Universities Week 2014, City joins universities across the UK celebrating their most cutting-edge research. Entrance to the Natural History Museum and City’s Circus for the Senses is free.

Please visit this site for a full programme of events and times for Universities Week 2014.