Multi-sensory design in a digital world | PDD

Multi-sensory design in a digital world

By Sarita

on September 10 2018

Multi-sensory design in a digital world…

Technology… it’s gone from hero to zero and back again over the past decade. As society has become more and more connected, we are constantly exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly side of what it can do and ultimately what we are allowing it to turn us into – how many times have you seen couples in restaurants with eyes firmly locked on their phones rather than each other?!

The juxtaposition between digital technology and multi-sensory will always exist, however, the tension between the two is easing as brands, manufacturers and ‘sensory explorers’ across various industries are finding new and exciting ways to stimulate our senses through digital technology. No longer is it just about playfully amplifying the senses through exhibitions and experimental dining events; we are starting to see ‘sensory crafting’ enter into our everyday (digital) lives, addressing real issues and paving the way for a new wave of ‘functional multi-sensory solutions’.

So, with these things in mind here’s 3 intriguing ways digital technology is being explored to give a fresh take on multi-sensory design…


Augmented Reality Haptx design multi-sensory

Image: Vaqso – Scent device for VR  

Adding sensory depth to virtual reality…

Virtual reality (VR) has been gaining traction over the past few years, with an increasing number of opportunities being opened up beyond the gaming industry. To heighten the experience and create an even more immersive environment, more recently haptic technology has been explored to engage the sense of touch through products such as HaptX, the first haptic gloves to deliver realistic touch in virtual reality. Now Tokyo-based start-up Vaqso, is looking to bring the sense of smell into the VR fold with their development of the world’s smallest scent emitter module for VR headset. Dubbed by Vaqso as ‘The 4th Sense in VR’ the module fits onto exiting VR headsets, syncing scent release with actions experience within the virtual world. The module holds up to 5 different scent cartridges and a fan that moderates the intensity of the smell.
Ford – Feel The View video

Creating inclusive environments for people with sensory impairments…

Perhaps some of the most exciting developments in digital multi-sensory design are products that utilise emerging sensory technologies to enrich experiences for people with sensory impairments. Automotive manufacturer Ford is exploring how haptic technology can be used to enable blind or partially-sighted people to visualise passing scenery through touch. Ford’s concept smart window, Feel The View, ‘takes pictures that are turned into high-contrast monochrome images. These are then reproduced on the glass using special LEDs. By touching the image, different shades of grey vibrate with a range of 255 intensities, allowing passengers to touch the scene and rebuild in their mind the landscape in front of them’. Ford has integrated this technology with a vocal assistant that is connected to the car’s audio system by an online artificial intelligence (AI), helping to put the ‘image’ into context through audio description.

Preece Wine_01 design multi-sensory

Image: Preece Nagambie Chardonnay 2016, Nagambie Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Nagambie Shiraz 2016: The Australian

Visualising the relationship between terroir and taste…

Gaining popularity in the late 1980s for what was considered a ‘modern approach to winemaking and marketing’, Australian wine label Preece Wine of Mitchelton relaunched its brand last year. Part of the relaunch included new labelling for its bottles using a technique called ‘Generative Design’. Each bottle features a unique graphic design on the label generated by an algorithm that uses different environmental factors of the vineyard. Data used in the algorithm includes the region, vintage, rainfall, mean monthly temperature, budburst, flowering, veraison (onset of ripening) and harvest dates. The unique labels bring to the foreground the natural and uncontrollable factors that influence the flavour of the wine; making the complex and changeable process of wine making highly visual and tangible through digital technology. ­

For more information on multi-sensory design take a look at our most recent articles below