The Smell of…

“The Smell of…” project is trying to visualize one of the five senses : smell. The way we used in this project is very simple: collecting the sentence in twitter by searching “what smells like” ,and then use the words to find the picture from flickr.

How would people describe a smell? For the negative part we have “evil-smelling, fetid, foul, foul-smelling, funky, high, malodorous, mephitic, noisome, olid, putrid, rancid, rank, reeking, stinking, strong, strong- smelling, whiffy…”; for the positive part we have “ambrosial, balmy, fragrant, odoriferous, perfumed, pungent, redolent, savory, scented, spicy, sweet, sweet-smelling…” (Search on by “smelly” and “fragrant”). However, compare to smell, the adjective of sight is a lot more. So, how do people describe smell? Most of time we use objects we are familiar with or we tell an experience for example: “WET DOG” or “it smells like a spring rain”.

In Matthieu Louis’s “Bilateral olfactory sensory input enhances chemotaxis behavior.” project, the authors analysed the chemical components of oder, and then visualize the oder by showing the concentration of different odor sources . In the novel “Perfume”, Patrick Suskind’s words and sentence successfully evoked readers’ imagination of all kind of smells, and moreover, Tom Tykwer visualized them so well in the movie version that we can even feel like we are really smelling something.

The project “The Smell of…” is developed by processing with the controlP5 library, twitter API, and Flickr API. First, users will find a text field for typing in the thing they want to know the smell.

In this case we type in “my head”.

After submitted, the program started searching the terms “my head smells like” in twitter. Once received the data, we split the sentence after the world “like” and then cut the string after period ‘. ‘. So it came up with all the result:

Figure.2 the result of searching “my head smells like” from

Third, the program used these words or sentences as the tag to find the image on

Figure.3 The result of image set from

So here is the image of “my head”.

For now I haven’t done any image processing so that all the pictures are raw. In the later version I would like to try averaging the color of every photos and presenting in a more organic form, like smoke or bubble. Also, the tweets we found are interesting so maybe we can keep the text in some way.

Figure.4:: The smell of “my hand”

Figure.5 The Smell of “book”


20*20 PPT20-20


~ by Kuan-ju Wu on 01/27/2010.

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