THE UX OF SENSORY EXPERIENCES | UX Studio Practices

Yiwei Han (David)
5 min readJan 7, 2021

22–29/10/20 (1 week)

📃Brief: Design an experience that manipulates human senses.

🤝Group Members: Binru Liu, Huijie Xiong(Rikkie), Luchen Peng, Qendresa Selimi, Vanessa Van, Yitong Han(Giada), Yiwei Han(David).

Want to know what happened here? Read the article below.

First acquaintance & shared sensory experience (Task 1)

The purpose of this first task was to explore and feel the sensory experience of the designated location through the five senses while ensuring personal safety. We used our phones and my camera to record the experiences that we could try to feel together or share.

Group photo at Given Meeting Point [51°31’20.4” N 0°06’17.5” W] (Group E): Millennium Heights, 1 Britton St, Farringdon, London EC1M 5NW. Since some group members were still in quarantine, this was a small group gathering containing Binru, Giada, Luchen, and myself.

The following is our sight, sound, smell and touch sensory experience here.

We shared sight and sound (The alone lighted windows and the deserted street; The occasional sound of passing motorcycles and buses and flying leaves whirling).
We shared smell and touch (The smell of medical masks and hand sanitizers; The touch of the site’s iconic purple walls which is hard, cold and has many spikes). (Courtesy of Binru, Giada and Luchen).
The 5 Senses Graph (based on our experience at the location).

Activities to enhance the feeling of togetherness (Task 2)

How to establish and maintain sensory personal contact with my group? Through group discussions, we made the following multiple attempts based on rough ideas and intuitions that quickly came to our minds.

Left: Shred a fallen leaf together and share the feeling with each other; Right: Measured the width of the street with our feet.
Left: Stood in a line on the street and imitated each other’s strange poses; Right: Simply followed the person who walks in front.
BTW, sanitized our hands at all times (Courtesy of Giada).

However, the above activities did not include the whole group members. In the following online brainstorming and discussion, we came up with two ideas that would allow people to connect or engage with each other right online — Facial Collage & Pass the Drinks.

Group Meeting & Passing Drinks Flow & Frist Failure (Courtesy of David).
Facial Collage of Us (Collaged by Qendresa).
Demo video: Pass the drinks across time and space via Zoom (Edited by David)

From these two tasks, we learned that besides the five senses, humans have many other important and complex senses, sense of “any”, some of which are used regularly but are hardly ever aware of.

For example, when we were doing experiments with passing drinks, we used equilibrioception and spatial awareness to a greater or lesser extent. So I turned my attention to the more complex but subtle sensations.

Inspiration

One day when I was sitting in the kitchen and found this interesting phenomenon, I found that when I focused my visual attention on the large window (right), I would feel that the train speed in the small window (left) was faster than the speed of the train in the large window.

The magical illusion of motion perception
Animation Simulation

Three ideas

Since our group was large and everyone had various interests and ideas, to respect all good ideas, we ended up with three final ideas based on our previous experiments and new discoveries (during isolation):

1. Untangling the messy threads(to feel anxiety and tension).

The recreation of experience about tension (Drawn by Vanessa) This idea was based on the anxiety and nervousness generated during the quarantine period when Giada first arrived in London (sirens sounded in the streets all the time).

2. Drawing in a circle (to feel togetherness).

Drawing (Drawn by Vanessa) This idea was based on our previous experience of online meeting and sense of togetherness (Thought up by Qendresa).

3. Running Train (to feel the illusion of speed).

Running Train (Made by David) The idea was based on observing the train in the kitchen.

Prototyping & Testing

Prototyping (Courtesy of Vanessa).
Testing ideas (Courtesy of Vanessa).

In our tests, we found that Running Train needed more people to participate for a better experience and Untangling the mess needed some inflating balloons beside the countdown to create more pressure.

Presentation

On & offline presentation (Courtesy of John).
Experience of tension (Courtesy of John).
Experience of togetherness (Courtesy of Binru & John).
Experience of speed illusion & Feedback.

All three experiences were successfully and entertainingly displayed, we received many valuable suggestions and appreciation. Drawing in a circle could be a creative method, and it’s really nice to experience togetherness in this situation; The balloon’s constant expansion did create a lot of pressure and tension; As for Running Train, Maria C. suggested that larger space and specifications are needed to display it to give a better effect.

Reflection

Working on three ideas in a week is not easy, especially through online collaborations only. But I was honoured to work with such an open and creative group of students. We supported each other to developed and tested our designs, leading to our successful outcome in the end.

This project has also stimulated my interest in perceptual illusions, which I think I will continue to explore in the future. I also had an exciting experience manipulating students worldwide, via just vision and sound from the screen. It made me wonder if this will be a new indicator for evaluating designers in the future — Remote control ability.

Timeline of UX of Human Senses

📚References:

  1. Bradford, A. (2017). The Five (and More) Senses. [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/60752-human-senses.html [Accessed 17 Jan. 2021].
  2. Hiskey, D. (2010). Humans Have a Lot More Than Five Senses. [online] Today I Found Out. Available at: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/07/humans-have-a-lot-more-than-five-senses/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2021].
  3. Vox (2017). You have more than five senses. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W0WPPpCFaM&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 17 Jan. 2021].

🎬Post-credits scene

There was a cool decorated wall that later gave me a little inspiration when generating ideas.

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Yiwei Han (David)

MA User Experience Design - University of the Arts London