Minutes of the “Smell, Taste and Temperature Interfaces Workshop” at CHI 2021

Minutes by Jenny Berkholz

Smell, Taste and Temperature Interfaces Workshop, CHI Conference 2021

Date: 06.05.21 to 08.05.21, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. each day.

Online event, Zoom conference

41 participants

Workshop homepage: https://stt21.plopes.org/

The workshop days will follow the same pattern: First the welcome, followed by the “Provocation Talks” and a discussion. After this first thirty minutes, videos of each of the submitted presentations are played, which have been previously recorded and submitted by the participants. Accompanying this, the associated paper and videos are available online to the internal plenary, but these are not published. This takes about another hour. This will be followed by a break of five minutes. Furthermore, breakout sessions of three to five participants are formed randomly, in which space is given for exchange or discussion. After half an hour, these sessions are terminated and all participants gather in the “main room.” What has been discussed is compiled in plenary. This is followed by social events, which are exempted for the European audience, as they have an advanced time due to the time difference. Communication took place both via Zoom chat, by mail and via Discord server.

The first day of the workshop will focus on the topic of “Smell”. The introductory talks are given by Haruka Matsukura, Emanuela Maggioni and Judith Amores. Ten short presentations follow. In the notetaker’s Breakout Room, the combination of Temperature Interfaces and Usable Security is discussed with Daniela Napoli. Furthermore, it is noted that the vocabulary for expressing taste and smell is lacking in the community. Since especially the meaning of smell changes over time, also due to cultural influencing factors, this will be further explored. It is emphasized that the other senses are much more dominant in scientific discourse and therefore it is of utmost relevance to advance Smell, Taste and Temperature research. Thus, especially the sense of sight and the sense of touch when “swiping” the screen are far more dominant. Judith Amores continues to illustrate the importance of researching the human subconscious and how it can be addressed through smell, for example during sleep. Learning and promoting smell and taste is also discussed, as this seems to make a lot of sense in times of the Covid 19 pandemic, and the loss of the sense of taste and smell that comes with the disease. Emphasis will be placed, however, on the importance of language as it constructs social reality.

The second day of the workshop will focus on “The Future of Taste.” In the “Provocation Talks” by Nimesha Ranasinghe and Marianna Obrist, it is made clear that taste research is still “in its infancy” in the HCI community (“The sense of taste in HCI is in its infancy”). There is speculation as to whether taste and smell combine like the RGB and CMYK color spectra, and whether this could lead to new sensory impressions. Meanwhile, Nimesha Ranasinghe presents his prototypes of Vocktails and Voffees, which are virtual drinks. Marianna Obrist presents the project “Tasty Floats”, which was inspired by a scene from the science fiction movie “Star Wars”. She also presents her earlier project “Temporal, Affective, and Embodied Characteristics of Taste Experiences,” which already introduces a specific vocabulary for taste. She pleads that taste research is something that needs to be handled responsibly in science. Accordingly, she establishes the three rules, inspired by “Asimovs’ Laws,” for  taste research. Eight presentations follow, including “Bourdieu Reloaded: On the Social Consruction of Taste” by the Notetaker and Gunnar Stevens. During the breakout session, there is discussion about what the difference is between flavor and taste, since flavor includes some olfactory component. Also brought up by Nimesha Ranasinghe is how to increase social acceptance to explore Gustatory Interfaces, as there is some barrier to putting the alienating items, in one’s mouth. For those in the plenary who have not yet used such a device, the question arises about what such an “electric taste” feels like. Also, possibilities of alternative proteins and their acceptance, for example of edible insects, are discussed. However, this did not lead to a final solution.

The third and last day of the workshop started with talks by Roshan Peiris and Jas Brooks. They show how weather information can be presented and communicated through virtual reality and temperature interfaces. Jas Brooks explains in more detail what the “trigeminal nerve” is and how it controls the sensation of heat and cold. It will be emphasized that temperature perception in particular is a multisensory experience. Among the other six presentations, the virtual simulation of wine tasting and its combination with warmth and cold will be explored. In the breakout room, the transcriber was encouraged to exchange ideas with Charles Spence, as he is doing research on similar topics, but he did not attend the workshop. The interdisciplinary nature of the group is also positively noted.

Overall, the workshop is considered a success by the organizers and should be repeated next year.