The Sound of Smell : Possibilities for communicating an odor with sound aiding olfactory impairment

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från KTH/Skolan för elektroteknik och datavetenskap (EECS)

Sammanfattning: With covid-19 affecting people's ability to smell, it might be of interest to find multimodal solutions, where other senses could assist someone with an impaired sense of smell to identify an odor. This area of research lacks data since there has not been many studies on this. Moreover, there are studies that tried to find a connection between sound and smell in other contexts. The goal of this study was to find if it is possible to communicate an odor, with the help of foley sound, to someone with an impaired sense of smell. This required answers to questions regarding whether people, with and without a changed sense of smell, can improve their odor identification with the help of sound and if foley is an effective method for it. This was tested by first collecting sound associations to odors, as well as cultural associations. The data were analyzed to find common themes to choose the sounds that would be used. The participants in the study were asked to make free identifications after being presented with odor pens together with additional stimuli cues. The experiment included tests with an associated color, a matching foley sound, a matching soundscape, an incongruent color and an incongruent foley sound. The results showed that sound in general has a positive impact on someone's identification capabilities, which were measured by counting the amount of right answers on each test. The odors coffee, fish and leather had foley sound that greatly increased the amount of correct answers whilst the foley sound to lemon, rose and peppermint had less of an impact. People with an imparied sense of smell were affected similarly to the different stimuli as people without an impairment. Since identification of odors are dependent on prior experiences, some odors could be harder or easier to identify. In order to create an auditory icon for an odor there needs to be strong collective associations for it to be efficient in relaying information and not being distracting.

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