Beyond screens: Music in your mouth, smelling the time

“We see with our brains, not with our eyes,” artist and technologist Aisen Caro Chacin said at Gigaom’s Roadmap conference Tuesday, paraphrasing neuroscientist Paul Bach-y-Rita.

Chacin explored that idea in her master’s thesis, developing four prototypes that help users perceive information without using screens. Here are two of the concepts she showed the audience at Roadmap:

Play-a-Grill: An MP3 player that plays music through your teeth, using the concept of bone conduction.

Play-A-Grill’s buttons were originally meant to be manipulated by the tongue, but the tongue’s tip is too soft.


“Your teeth are embedded in your jaw and your jaw is so close to your inner ear that it vibrates your cochlea to the frequency of sound,” Chacin explained. “Your hearing nerve doesn’t care whether [sound] is coming from your eardrum or your teeth.”

Scent Rhythm: A watch that tells time through scent, based on the circadian rhythm.

Aisen Caro Chacin’s Scent Rhythm prototype


Chacin broke up the 24-hour cycle into four six-hour cycles: “rising, alertness, unwinding and dozing.” The watch aims to let users know what time it is by promoting different neurotransmitters. In the morning the watch emits the smell of coffee. In the afternoon it emits the smells of “paper and tarnish” — “I was trying to make the smell of money, to keep you going.” Unwinding is promoted by the scents of whiskey and tobacco, and chamomile goes with sleep.

“I would love to have a bigger palate of scents, [as well as an] understanding of how we can incorporate these chemical concoctions to put you on time,” Chacin said.

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Photos courtesy of Aisen Caro Chacin’s “Sensory Pathways for the Plastic Mind.