Science, Smell, Fashion
mood & emotion | productivity | stress
Jenny Tillotson is a researcher and fashion designer who is currently exploring how scent plays a role in emotion and psychological states. As someone living with bipolar disorder, she’s been acutely aware of what affects her own emotions states and has been exploring different methods to track them. In this talk, presented at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, Jenny discusses her new project, Sensory Fashion, that uses wearable tracking technology and scent and sensory science to improve wellbeing.
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I’ve just finished the Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship which was a project very much donated to myself for a personal crusade to design behavior change to benefit me with many hat’s on as an entrepreneur, as a designer because I have bipolar. I’ve had bipolar for about 20 years and while the projects been informed with living with bipolar because sometimes I become mute. I lose a lot of confidence which is ironic really because obviously fashion is a lot about self-expression.
And what drive me are really my three children and my husband. He also has bipolar and I’m bipolar to, so we’re trying to find a way to reduce the triggers, improve sleep, and reduce stress.
So the project is called sensory fashion and it’s building stress management using scent, using wearable technology to breakdown many issues that I have with anxiety and sleep and to induce positive states and to reduce the risk of a bipolar relapse. So for example, these are mood swings and if I can keep within the green central line then there is less likely of having a relapse if I can reduce stress and help sleep, so I call it keeping green and prevent the triggers.
And so smell, smell is a very personal thing but it’s also very direct to the limbic system what’s on the top of your nose. And so you cannot turn it off and it’s actually very powerful and very evocative and so I’m using this as an immediate goal is to build a customized scent bubble with this technology which is very near the nose to find a calming method to reduce stress, performance, anxiety, sweat when I get sort of stressed. And I’m inspired by science fiction, and I want to quickly put this in. Aldous Huxley and his new world scent organ and creating this sort of scent magical reality in a can by Philip Caddick if you know the story. And a lot of it is inspired by Terry Mooglers fashion, he said fashion will change dramatically in the coming years. It will be more human, closer to the needs of the people in terms of their well-being and not in terms of them not showing and that was 30 years ago.
So what I am doing. I am building these tools, and it’s an experimental project and I’m creating the convergence of ancient perfumery with emerging technologies. So you’ve got wearable tech, the miniaturization of lab on a chip, micro-fluid, and smell. Smell communication.
So if you look at the history, the Egyptians used to wear scent waxes on their head, and the French introduced alcohol to perfume. And what I’m doing is completely getting rid of all that and creating a sort of microchip ultimately, it’s sort of an e-scent microchip, which is controlled scent on a chip.
And it’s focusing on aromachology, which is the science of fragrance, it’s not aromatherapy. This is where the data is on aromachology, which is the story of aroma and how it has an effect on human psychology and behavior. There is only really a handful of scents that there is evidence to show this.
So these are some of my earlier projects; Smart second skin, which were installations and various sorts of scent, exhibitions and prototypes that I used without technology. This is actually without the wearable technology.
These are some working prototypes with biosensors – they weren’t biofeedback, but they were devices that released scent in response to a stimulus on various wearable devices that create these personalized scent bubble right near the nose.
So the real time biofeedback scent interventions that I’m leaning towards, the idea is that you can track mood and sleep, and then the escent device will release counteracting scents to relieve tension when stress levels get to a certain threshold. Then you need to know which scent and how you’re feeling obviously.
So I have worked with Philips, this is one of my partners and this was a Fellowship where we were looking at various different ideas for their sleep and stress businesses and putting into their mood therapy lamps and wake-up lamps. And this is the idea of having a sort of pending that releases scent to help you sleep and lavender would be the most obvious one, because there is evidence to show that can help with relaxation. And this was with Cardiff University, because they are actually on the doorstep to a lot of these aromas.
Then it will have something to wake you up in the morning and you could have a pendant and perhaps sitting on the pillow and that will be releasing a citrus scent to stimulate and energize you, and peppermint to keep you awake throughout the day.
So what did I learn? Well, the Fellowship was really a way to raise mental health awareness, and teaching me how to read communicate, because I think that was a lot of the problem with the bipolar and depression. I lost a lot of confidence, and I’ve been able to start a lot of new fashion and communication projects; many of what I am commercializing. And I was also able to experiment with many of these oils that kind of help reduce stress, help me sleep, and sort of help with the yoga and just generally take care of myself.
So this is the scents that I’ll be using with the new delivery systems, as I develop. So with the Fellowship, I was able to take and travel around and meet various Californian psychiatrists and these are some of the comments that it’s really going to help with the prodrome intervention before you have the little shifts that gets to the bigger shifts. And as a kind of warning system, so you can release the scent to build your own therapeutic rainbow depending how you are feeling. So it’s a very personalized system, and obviously it’s not for everyone. You need to know which scents would potentially work if you’re feeling angry.
But it’s also creating this scent clock as well and you can have this built into your watch, or clothing or whatever it might be, and releasing it in the morning for example, and something at night-time. So it’s very much in tuned with your own body, so I call that the smart second skin and it’s tailored to move.
What I’m learning as well is that with the scent bubble, releasing the scent there is actually some science behind this, depending on the odor threshold of how much scent is released from the perfume you know, top base and middle note, so that’s kind of interesting project as that developed. So only a very small amount is release, and depending on the actual aroma that this does actually work.
So my long-term goal is to use electronic note sensors and that would be the ideal, to embed these into your clothing and that would detect stress related body odor which is the very fatty odors when we are very very stressed, and to create the scent bubble.
And what I hope to do then is test and measure the actual earwax, which has body odor, and to find out if there are stress levels in there. There is certainly with blue whales, they know that when they are stressed there is a lot of stress related body odor in their canal.
So this just shows how will develop with these tracking obviously, which I haven’t started and I will do when I have got the scent delivery system, but tracking smell is the key thing and the actual stress related body odor and then how that works with the scent bubble as you are monitoring your mood.
So there is many many many other applications for this sort of technology, for memory recall and dementia. As a CBT cyber tool for behaviour change obviously, and then for curbing appetite and enhancing appetite which would work with QS diagnosing disease.
And really, that’s it; there you are with the rainbow and the scent bubble. Thank you very much.