Olfaction and its combination with visual stimuli in the creation of interactive and immersive environments


Lead Researchers and authors: Prof Takamichi Nakamoto, Saya Onai, IIR Laboratory for Future Interdisciplinary Research of Science and Technology, School of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology; Nathan Cohen, Tokyo Institute of Technology WRHI Visiting Professor, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

ARTICLE’S FULL TITLE: Olfaction and its combination with visual stimuli in the creation of interactive and immersive environments, with the potential to enhance personal engagement and well-being – a transdisciplinary collaborative research project integrating science, technology and art.

Since March 2020 we have been working on an olfactory project investigating how smell, in combination with visual stimuli, influences our impression of an environment and how this could impact Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) users when creating immersive, interactive scenes.

Smell is a complex medium to work with, posing challenges for developers, technologists and creatives in its identification, application and handling. Invisible yet, to varying degrees, influential in how we interpret our environment, it has been a source of fascination and inspiration for centuries. Samples of aromatic substances are to be found in the graves of early Egyptians and, in refined forms, it has been a rare and sought after commodity across cultures through to the present day.

Smell, or more particularly the odours which form it, can be distributed artificially in different ways. Perfume is worn directly on the body or clothing. Aromatic oil or alcohol based solutions can be sniffed from a simple container or using smelling sticks that absorb the sample. Moved under the nose the aromatic compounds within the odour samples are released into the air and we absorb them through our nasal passages where smell receptors translate the experience to the brain. This requires a simple haptic approach to encountering the smell sample. Alternatives include burning incense, warming essential oils, and the use of aerosol sprays and gel dispensers to disseminate odours more widely within a space.

A high-speed solenoid valve open/close olfactory display setup in the  Nakamoto Laboratory (Credit: authors).
Diagram illustrating use of the high-speed solenoid valve open/close olfactory display set up in the Nakamoto Laboratory. (Credit: authors).

However, to offer a range of odours in a way that is more intimate and corresponds to other stimuli within a controlled and time based environment requires a different approach. Over recent years Takamichi Nakamoto has developed, with his team in the Nakamoto Laboratory, a technical and computerised approach to delivering odour samples, either linked to a headset or in close proximity, enabling their combination with visual and auditory media in immersive digital environments. Many technical difficulties had to be overcome in this construction including how to enable several odour samples to be delivered through one device without their contaminating each other, and how these odours could be linked to different aspects of the immersive environment in which they can be encountered over varying durations of time. The device currently being used for our experiments in the creation of interactive virtual spacio-olfactory games is an high-speed solenoid valve open/close olfactory display.

Scentscape (2019, Nathan Cohen, Reiko Kubota) an interactive olfactory artwork with digital display (Credit: authors).

One area of investigation we are exploring is how smell can encourage memory and enhance narrative association. An earlier example of this may be seen in the boxed artwork Scentscape (2019, Nathan Cohen, Reiko Kubota) where odour samples were presented in small glass screw capped containers which, when handled, triggered sequences of still images on a video screen corresponding to particular places with which the odours are associated. Other objects relating to memories of these places could also be placed within the box, the intention being that the user could combine their own imagery, odour samples and objects to create their own personalised memory box.

The olfactory displays developed by Takamichi Nakamoto offer a more technical and differently immersive approach. In this current research we will be exploring ways in which the combination of imagery and olfaction can create an enhanced narrative experience for the user through the development of scenes that complement and are complemented by odours. This will also take the form of an animated interactive environment that users engage with.

As Saya Onai states in a co-published paper ‘Significant research has already been done in relation to memory and scene recall that can be induced by scent (odours), but information transmission and scene recall by scent alone has not yet been realised effectively. It has been difficult to achieve a common perception of a particular scene from a certain odour due to the influence of prior experience and differences in individual perceptions.’ * In this research, we are seeking ways to enhance scene recollection by combining olfactory, visual, and possibly auditory, stimuli within an immersive environment.

Pair of images displayed sequentially with a 10 second blank screen and odour sample between the first and second versions of the image (Credit: authors).

To better understand the links between smell and memory recall a supervised experiment was conceived by the group working on this research and conducted in the Nakamoto Laboratory by Saya Onai in December 2020. 18 volunteers were divided into 2 separate groups.† Group 1 were presented with the first of 2 related images on a monitor screen, the screen then went blank and an odour related to the image was dispensed through the linked headset for 7 seconds with an overall pause of 10 seconds. Following this the screen displayed the second related image. There were a sequence of 11 sets of visual image pairs with corresponding odours, referred to as ‘scenes’, that all the volunteers experienced consecutively. After viewing all 11 scenes a multiple choice questionnaire was presented asking which odour is the correct one in relation to each scene. For group 1 the questionnaire presented sets of 4 visual images per odour to select from, inviting the participant to identify which image correctly corresponds to the odour for each scene.

Group 1 multiple choice selection for an test odour 
Group 2 multiple choice selection for an test odour (Credit: authors).

Group 2 separately experienced the same test, only the multiple choice options for selecting the correct odour were text based only and not images.

Initial analysis of the experiment’s results reveal mixed rates of identification, with some odour – image associations stronger than others. We will be exploring this further to identify which odour image combinations are more readily identifiable, together with investigating the temporal nature of odour and odour combination in the creation of animated smell scenes that induce narrative association. We will also be considering the aesthetic aspects of the game design required to engage users and enhance their experience of interaction. This will form the basis for the research during April 2021 – March 2022, with the intention to produce a working prototype for display at Siggraph Asia in December 2021.

*香りによる情景想起の基礎的研究  Fundamental Study of Association of Scenes with Scents Nakamoto, T., Onai, S., Iseki, M., Cohen, N. (2021) IEICE General conference

† This was an initial experiment conducted under Covid-19 pandemic restrictions which meant numbers of participants were restricted.

S T A D H I – Science & Technology + Art & Design Hybrid Innovation

This research is supported by the Tokyo Tech World Research Hub Initiative (WRHI), Program of the Institute of Innovative Research (IIR), Tokyo Institute of Technology.

© 2021 Photographs and intellectual content – all rights reserved by the authors.




このインタラクティブ嗅覚ディスプレイは、香りがどのように記憶を促し、物語の関連性を高めることができるかを探求するために使用されました。実験は、2020年12月に中本研究室のメンバーによって18人のボランティアに対して実施されました。初期分析結果はさまざまで、強い関連をしめす香りと画像があることが明らかになっています。2021年4月から2022年3月までのさらなる研究は、2021年12月のSIG-GRAPH Asiaで展示するための実用的なプロトタイプを作成することを目指します。

Jan 7th – Feb 5th 2021: “Technology and Product in Context” course by Dr Betti Marenko


This article introduces the “Technology and Product in Context” course by Dr Betti Marenko held in the 2020/21 autumn term for GSEC, the Global Scientists and Engineers Course. The classes included a series of 6 lectures and a workshop with the students on the third week. Design theorist Dr Marenko is WRHI Specially Appointed Professor at Tokyo Tech and Reader in Design and Techno-Digital Futures at Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London, UK.

What does it mean to be human in a world designed to be smart? How well can we get along with machines that are unpredictable and inscrutable? How do we think about ‘hybrid futures’? These were some of the questions raised in the Technology and Product in Context lecture series by design theorist, academic and educator Dr Betti Marenko. The course – ended in February 2021 – was attended by about 15 students from various branches of engineering, social and life sciences, who share an interest in the future of technology, philosophical issues around design and making, design theory and science communication. The sessions were conducted entirely in English and online, using Zoom, PowerPoint and Miro boards. This article follows the structure of the course and outlines some of the key topics, references and examples discussed each week.

Dr Marenko’s publications focus on Design, Philosophy and Digital Futures (Credit: Marenko, 2021)

Dr Marenko has written extensively about technological futures and the role of design in the Post-Anthropocene, a future geological era that does not presuppose the presence of humans on Earth. Her “tools for thinking in the Post-Anthropocene” lie at the intersection of design, philosophy and technology. In her view, the development of future technologies needs to engage with complexity, and design can benefit from a shift “from problem solving to problem finding”. The first lecture explored the question of hybrid futures from a historical perspective, tracing the origins of the human-machine encounter back to the automata that emerged in Europe in the Renaissance period. 

Dr Marenko discussed the history of automata, including The boy writer by Jaquet Droz (1770s) (Credit: unknown; slide by Marenko, 2021)

Prompted by questions on their views on “technology” and “context” – two keywords in the course title – the students proposed ideas such as “the unknown”, “a more harmonious and convenient society”, abstract and changeable ideas of “hope”, “cooperation” and “unpredictability”. For Marenko, the context of design is not simply a background to a project, but “mutually constituted ecologies” of interactions that retain an ability to ask better questions. She highlights the undivided nature of theory and practice through the image of the Moebius strip, a continuous form that is both inside and outside. Similarly, the contrast between what is human and non-human, or post-human, is dissolved in philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s definition of the human as “the machine that produces the notion of the human”. For design theorists Colomina and Wigley, “being human means being able to design”, and design is about changing the world. For Marenko, the boundaries between human and non-human need constant reassessing, and technology is what we use to address this instability. The lecture included numerous examples of artworks and writings that illustrate or embody her philosophical narratives.

Dr Marenko’s slides included striking images from popular culture, advertising and art projects (Credits: Apple Inc., 2015, left; Andy Taylor, 2012, right)

The course continued with an exploration of the concept of future through three keywords: expectation, imagination and anticipation. Anticipation is the capacity to imagine the non-existent future in the present, leading to the idea of ‘future proofing’. However, as Marenko puts it, “the conditions for change do change”. The simplistic assumption that future proofing is possible, let alone desirable, underpins some of the failed philosophies of modern design: planned obsolescence (the design of failure to stimulate future sales), solutionism (the idea that design is all about finding solutions to existing problems) and linear progress (the vision of a world constantly improving thanks to science and technology). Design brings better solutions, but better for whom? And, better for what? Dr Marenko proposes a view based on French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s idea that building the future is not about predicting but “being attentive to the unknown knocking at the door”.

This set the basis for a workshop conducted on Week 3 using a Miro board and a set of cards developed by Dr Marenko and colleagues at CSM. Working in four small groups, the students were asked to propose a scenario for 2050 that addressed one of four ‘pills’ provided: animism, counterfactuals, decolonization and post-Anthropocene. These were read through selected ‘affective mode cards’, which summarised the attitude performed in the discussion, i.e. the anxious, the optimist, the resilient, the survivalist, the nihilist and the Zen master. Guided by this participatory strategy, the groups offered their visions of the future in short presentations, anticipating a few aspects that would be analysed in the subsequent weeks.

A screenshot of the Miro board used by Marenko and her students (Credits: Marenko, 2021; Miro.com, 2021)

The course went on to question “received notions of technology” as having to do with the latest innovations, and stressed the continuity with historical developments. The term and notion of android, for instance, go back to Pierre Jaquet Droz’s writing automaton from the 1770s and its use of the power of technology to “enchant” its audience. Similarly, the term automaton today to some extent maintains the original meaning (from Diderot’s Encyclopaedia of 1751) of a machine that can move by itself, following a sequence of operations or responding to encoded instructions. The conversation continued on the topic of “digital enchantment” (based on texts by anthropologist Alfred Gell) and the relationship of technology with magic. The lecture material was grounded in historical and philosophical developments but made more accessible by recurrent references to well-known techno-gadgets, and visual and popular culture: from iPhones and Blade Runner, to Amazon and the latest Android firmware.

Following the steps of French philosopher F. Guattari, Dr Marenko discussed digital uncertainty in contemporary society, one that is seeing “a fundamental repositioning of human beings in relation to both their machinic and natural environments”. Information and computation are not simply mediating our lives, they constitute a large part of what we do every day. But the outcomes of these digital encounters are not fully predicted or programmed, hence the emergence of uncertainty. Examples include the algorithmic automation that drives financial services and much of our interaction online. These considerations are driving AI innovations and constitute a new “technological unconsciousness” that contrasts with 20th century views of technology. Marenko therefore asks, “Can AI get smarter by becoming more uncertain?”.

Dr Marenko reflected on the impact of planetary computation on contemporary and future societies (Credits: unknown, slide by Marenko, 2021)

Through old and new theories of cybernetics, uncertainty was explored both as an accident and as a glitch. A fundamental concept is von Foerster’s “non-trivial machines”, deterministic systems producing unpredictable outcomes. Digital models, for example, can work by iterations and design strategies can operate by a fast succession of trial and error, as described by historian and critic Mario Carpo (2013). This poses interesting questions on what constitutes digital craft and how it relates to the idea of “risk”, an essential aspect of handmade production.

The next lecture started by pointing out the paradox of innovation: any new products must retain familiarity, so people can comprehend and recognise them. For example, the first car in the 1870s was named “the horseless carriage” and very much looked like one. Design theorists D. Norman and R. Verganti discussed this issue in their 2014 paper on “incremental and radical innovation”, a critique of the same human-centred design (UCD) that Normal had helped developing in the 1980s and 90s. For them, UCD can provide incremental innovation to “users” but only focuses on things people already know. For Marenko, instead, design can assume a more rhizomatic nature and embrace its role as interface between the making of objects and that of concepts. According to this view, the design process is simultaneously thing-making, concept-making and future-building.

The discussion followed on the concept of future crafting and the role of fiction in producing reality. This was linked to other design strategies and methods of future crafting, such as cultural probes (embracing risk and uncertainty) and defamiliarization (embracing strangeness).

The horseless carriage, an early model of car (right), still closely resembled a horse-powered carriage (left). (Credit: unknown; slide by Marenko, 2021)

The series concluded with Dr Marenko’s original reflections on technology and animism. As surprising as it may sound, we already live in a world that has seen a shift from “talking about things to talking with things” (her italics). If from a technological perspective we are seeing the rise of the ‘internet of things’, theoretical developments also attempt to question outdated (Western) notions of animism for our new age. Following Bruno Latour’s thinking, the focus is not just on drawing parallels between consumerist and religious practices, but to rethink about the “agency” of objects as a relational property. Philosopher Jane Bennett has also discussed “thing-power”, the curious ability of inanimate things to produce effects. Referencing multiple recent studies on the subject, Dr Marenko discussed the role of animism in creativity and design. She provides a definition of “animistic design” as one that operates in a post-user (or post-UCD) scenario and maintains “mental elbowroom” to generate new, non-linear forms of knowledge. But why is uncertainty so important? Because it establishes perceptions, it shows what might happen and focuses on ranges of possibility, including those that were not thought of. It depends on elements that are not fully controllable, are random and not fully predicted. Uncertainty has to do with creativity.

Through her often surprising and always inspiring lectures, Dr Marenko opens new views on technology and its deployment in crafting humanity’s future. Her arguments on science and technology stand out as seamlessly built on a diverse range of references across disparate disciplines. The discussion was made more accurate and relevant by drawing from philosophy and design theory, but also science fiction, critical design, art practice, advertising and popular culture. The hope is that students’ accepted views of technology could be shaken by all this unorthodox transdisciplinarity, leading them to wider-open reflection, inspiration and future-shaping innovation.

Dr Betti Marenko’s forthcoming book, Designing Smart Objects in Everyday Life. Intelligences. Agencies. Ecologies (co-edited with Marco Rozendaal and Will Odom), is a collection of essays developing a new research framework for interaction design. For more information on this and other projects, visit bettimarenko.org





  1. Post-Anthropoceneを推測するための理論的道具
  2. 将来の期待
  3. 「未来の哲学のピル」ワークショップ
  4. 人間と機械の出会い:アンドロイドからアルゴリズムへ
  5. 惑星計算におけるデジタルの不確実性
  6. スペキュレイティブ、フィクション、未来のクラフトをデザインする
  7. アニミズム2.0


2nd July 2020 – Social Design Project: Week 2

The Social Design Project course is taking place during the second trimester of 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, classes are offered online on Zoom for the first time. The article below provides a summary of the lectures given on Week 2 by Dr Giorgio Salani. These were attended by about 45 students, who also participated in online group exercises and completed a formal assignment at the end of the week. A description of Week 3 classes can be found here.

In line with Prof. Nohara’s working definition of Social Design as “planning and presenting services or products that contribute to our society”, Dr Salani discussed the delivery of ‘value’ through technical and design work. Week 2 classes focused on “delivering value to clients” through consultancy services, and Week 3 on “creating original value” through research. Effectively, these were used as contexts to introduce basic notions of Engineering Consultancy in Week 2 and Design Research in Week 3. Dr Salani’s professional background in both fields offered direct insights into real projects, merging theoretical explanations with practical considerations.

An Introduction to Engineering Consultancy

The class started with a description of Visibility Graph Analysis (VGA), a method of quantitative assessment of urban spaces that was initially developed in the late 1990s and quickly grew into an industry standard. VGA provides clients with measures of visibility and accessibility that can be used to directly compare the performance of proposed plans and masterplans during initial design stages. Results can also input into predictive pedestrian models to simulate the traffic expected to occur in a variety of scenarios. This is a powerful tool for transport engineers – worth discussing in its own right – but in the lecture Dr Salani primarily used it to illustrate the work of Engineering Consultants. The VGA software Fathom was developed by Intelligent Space Partnership in the UK in the early 2000s, and initially offered as a software package to architects and urban planners. Failing to attract sufficient interest, the founders began to use the software to provide evidence-based professional advice to their clients, and so the company flourished as a consultancy. A typical business success story, the company quickly grew to employ 25 staffs and was later acquired by a major engineering corporation, Atkins Ltd, itself recently bought out by the SNC-Lavalin group.

Credit: nca.gov.au

So, what is consulting? Consultants are professionals who make their expertise available to clients (Williams and Woodward, 1994). They offer technical assistance and professional advice, e.g. in the form of policy recommendations, data analysis or design work. Often working on multiple projects at the same time, they operate in a corporate environment that is highly regulated by company procedures and industry standards. The lecture discussed typical roles and responsibilities shared by a team of consultants, highlighting the need for teamwork and multidisciplinarity. Accounts from Dr Salani’s professional experience illustrated approaches and real-life conditions in which engineering consultants operate.

The Skills of an Engineering Consultant

The “1+7 model” offered by Williams and Woodward (1994) was adapted to show the multiple roles a consultant is expected to play when undertaking a project. This goes well beyond the goal of providing specialist information and advice as an expert in a particular field, and involves the multiple roles shown in the figure below.

Credit: Giorgio Salani (adapted from Williams and Woodward, 1994)

The focus here was on the non-technical nature of these important roles. A goal of the lecture was to emphasise the need for additional skills required by engineers and technical specialists. To further illustrate this point, a recent, real profile of a software engineer from an online recruiting ad was discussed in the class, highlighting several competencies expected from a graduate applying for the position. Besides a comprehensive understanding of the profession, the employers listed skills and attitudes that included the ability to manage time, space and power constraints, being confident and responding positively in stressful situations, interacting constructively with customers and colleagues, being able to provide creative solutions, and generally demonstrating excellent communication skills. Interestingly, the assignment completed by the students after the class showed these requirements resonated with the students’ needs to prepare for a professional career. Many expressed the desire to develop further communication skills during the course of their studies. As explained in the lecture, this is seen as key to enable the implementation and application of the more strictly technical expertise acquired at university.
At the end of the first lecture, students completed concept maps of non-technical consultancy competencies. The exercise invited them to reflect on the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by employers in work that involves – among other activities – direct contact with clients and communication with diverse audiences.

The Consulting Process

The second part of the class went deeper into the analysis of the engineering consulting process. Theoretical diagrams and definitions of the various stages involved in delivering services to clients were illustrated by a real case study: a transport assessment undertaken by Dr Salani for the Royal Parks (client) in London, UK, in 2014. The purpose of the project was to monitor the use by pedestrians and cyclists of a shared path located within an important public green space in central London. This aimed at identifying current flow levels, conflicts and interactions between transport modes to provide a baseline analysis before the installation of cycle speed calming measures along the route. The project exemplified a typical transport engineering service whereby consultants provide specialist advice to a client, informed by the collection and analysis of new data. The project included an initial scoping study, surveys conducted by the consultancy team and CCTV surveys commissioned to sub-contractors. Using the project as a context for discussion, the students were introduced to key phases in engineering consulting work, which are summarised in the diagram below.

Credit: Giorgio Salani

An account of the tasks involved in delivering the project for the Royal Parks provided context to describe not only the tasks involved but to highlight the technical and non-technical competencies involved at each stage. This illustrated the content of the first lecture with a practical example of the application of the characteristics discussed in the group exercise. The example of the Data Analysis phase is shown in the figure below. Negotiation, communication and critical skills play an even more central role in the last phase of a consultancy project, the Evaluation phase. The diplomacy and reliability of consultants is put to the test in this final stage, in which the project is internally evaluated to identify mistakes and lessons to inform future procedures. This can also be a period of more intense communication with clients to acquire – or at least test the waters for – project extensions.

Credit: Giorgio Salani

Delivering Value

In his seminal book Design for the Real World (1972), design theorist Victor Papanek tells the story of his young self in New York in the 1950s, invited by his new employer to describe his role as a designer in the factory. Discussing his work on a new model of transistor radio, Papanek mentioned the “beauty” of the product at the market level and the “consumer satisfaction” created by his original design. His boss interrupted him and reminded him instead of his main responsibility as a designer to create something that could be produced and sold to support the company’s stakeholders and all the workers that would flock from various parts of the US to find employment in the factory and produce his radio. Later on in his life, Papanek realised the designer has also additional responsibilities, not just towards customers and workers, but society and the environment. This simple tale set the basis for the discussion on delivering value through consultancy work, not just to clients but to society at large.
The model to assess the impact of consultancy work was developed for this course based on the 7-point radial charts utilised by Prof. Nohara in her Week 1 lectures. For Week 2, this was adapted to include the characteristics listed in the diagram below.

Credit: Giorgio Salani

A final qualitative assessment of the project introduced the end of the lecture. A few concluding considerations summarised the impact of the project on various stakeholders (i.e. client, consultants, local community) and broader categories (i.e. health & safety, environment, politics). The visualisation clearly identified the project to be mostly beneficial to those directly involved in undertaking it (client and consultancy firm) and the users of the proposed solutions (the local community of pedestrians and cyclists in the park), particularly in terms of increased safety. A lower impact was identified on public welfare, politics and the environment. Although beneficial, the effect on these was considered of minor importance. This qualitative assessment provided a final review of the lecture and its relevance to the theme of Social Design discussed in the course. The standard format of the 7-point spider map used in the evaluation offered a direct comparison with those discussed in other weeks, offering an additional binder among the classes given by the various lectures, week after week.
The participation in the classes, group exercises and the completion of the assignments on Google Forms showed a notable interest in the topics among the students, and the classes greatly benefited from their active participation. The smooth delivery of the class was made possible by the help of teaching assistants Purevsuren Norovsambuu (Nasso) and Dolgormaa Banzragch (Banzai), and the professional translation support provided by Takumi Saito over the entire lecture. In addition to introducing specific topics, Week 2 classes provided students with methods and food for thought for the Social Design Project course.
Read this blog on Dr Salani’s Week 3 classes on Delivering Original Value.


Atkins, 2009 Spatial Analysis of Pedestrian Movement for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Report.
Atkins, 2015a Kensington Gardens, Mount Walk. Cycle and Monitoring Study for The Royal Parks. Final report R3.
Atkins, 2015b Adelaide Riverbank Precint, Pedestrian Modelling Assessment. Report.
Betancur, J. 2017 The Art of Design Thinking: Make more of your Design Thinking workshops.
Chau, Hing-Wah & Newton, Clare & Woo, Catherine & Ma, Nan & Wang, Jiayi & Aye, Lu. 2018. Design Lessons from Three Australian Dementia Support Facilities Buildings.
Grace, R. 1997 The `chaîne opératoire approach to lithic analysis, Internet Archaeology 2
IDEO, 2015 The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design.
IDEO, What is Social Design? Video Available at:
Papanek, V. 1972 Design for the Real World
Plattner, H. 2018 Design Thinking Bootleg. D.School Stanford.
Stickdorn et al. 2011 This is Service Design Thinking
Williams, A.P.O., Woodward, S. 1994 The Competitive Consultant, A Client-Oriented Approach for Achieving Superior Performance. The MacMillan Press. The Royal Parks 2020 Movement Strategy. Report.

29 July – 3 August: Concept Designing Report

The 10th Musashino Art University-Tokyo Institute of Technology joint workshop was held from July 29 to August 3, 2019.

The collaboration was sponsored by Modulex Inc. and brought together students from the two schools to share their knowledge and skills. Groups of five students combined science & technology and art & design approaches to create new ideas and artworks.

Each group created a single artwork based on the theme “Right Left”.
For some students from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, communications were very difficult because they have fundamentally different ways of thinking from Musashino Art University students. However, communications went beyond the mere use of words.
Drawings of sheets of paper were used as a whiteboard to create connections between the team.


Difficulties in communication can also have positive outcomes. They force one to enter another person’s mindset through face-to-face interaction. Once the overwhelming “otherness” of the other party is accepted, a “responsible relationship” is established. When we say “I understand you”, what we often imply is “I understand you the way I can understand.” There is no threat to the underlying assumptions of one’s cognitive framework.

However, as Levinas repeatedly points out, the responsibility for responding to others lies in the overwhelming “otherness” of inviolability, or “heterogeneity” (Levinas, 1986).

When faced with the “face” of another person, we are inevitably required to take some action.
Saying “I fail to understand you” does not mean the end of the communication. We ask ourselves, “What shall I do?” because the “otherness” of other people continues to prompt a dialogue even without any questions asked.

Here, communication loses the means of understanding others in a way that allows them to understand themselves, and makes it impossible to reverse the alienness of others. In this way, while being overwhelmed by the overwhelming heterogeneity of others, by continuing to direct words and gaze to others, a “responsible relationship” with others begins. We are vulnerable to the foreign nature of the other person, but we still fail to understand her/him (but we’re here, we are here). This may be important in communication.

All the artworks the students created had a “meaning” and a “story” that were crafted by communicating with each other, and they were all original and fun to look at.

Piano Bar Oto (音):

The wonderful idea of drinking sound. It made us think about the difference between what is shaped and what is not.

AI God (AIの神さま):
The idea that a QR code connected to AI is a god. It can be used as a satire for modern society.


Humans without left and right (左右をもたない人間):
The inconvenience of not having left and right. Someone’s freedom may be associated with someone else’s inconvenience.

Seeing things from the beginning (始まりから物事を見る):
A very philosophical work with a well-defined concept behind it. Is it possible for humans to see everything from the beginning to the end?

Products that change the position of the eyes (目の位置を変えるプロダクト):
It’s supposed to be here, it’s the freshness that changes the position of the eyes that you’re thinking about. It can be interpreted as “what is always there is not always there”.

References: Levinas Emmanuel (1986) “Time and Others”, Translated by Yoshihiko Harada, Tokyo: Hosei University Press.

(Photos © Nohara Lab 2019)


今回の作品のテーマは、「右 左」でした。学生たちはお互いにコミュニケーションをとりながら、グループで一つのアート作品を作り上げます。



「私はあなた(の言うこと)を理解した。」と言うとき、それはしばしば「私は私が理解できる形であなたの(言う)ことを理解した。」という事実にとどまります。そこには根源的な驚きや認識の枠組みが揺るがされるような脅威は感じられません。しかし、レヴィナスが繰り返し指摘するように、他者へ応答する責任が生じるのは、その不可侵の圧倒的「他者性」、別の言葉にすれば「異質さ」にあります(レヴィナス, 1986)。他者の「顔」に対面したとき、私たちは否応なく何らかの対応を要求されます。



Piano Bar Oto (音):





レヴィナス・エマニュエル. (1986). 『時間と他者』. 原田佳彦 (訳). 東京:法政大学出版局.

2017-2019: UK visit on Science Communication Report

Science Communication/Science & Engineering Design for Global Talents – Overseas Programme

Some reports from the past participants available:
UK programe final report_2019
UK program final report_2018
UK program final report_2017

Further information here.

① ロンドン科学博物館 (London Science Museum) での研修
② Science Communication Research Group (SCRG)  ロンドン科学博物館やロンドン芸術大学CSMを含む複数の機関を訪問し調査するプログラム
その他、英国王立研究所 (Royal Institution)での研修などがあります。
UK programe final report_2019
UK program final report_2018
UK program final report_2017

26 Nov 2019-7 Jan 2020: “Media Editorial Design” Course

The “Media Editorial Design” course took place in the 4th trimester of 2019. The overall theme was “design to prevent transmission” and the task was to produce a “graphic expression to prevent transmission”.

Course summary

The students experimented with designs that “do not communicate” a message. The lecture’s goal was to understand the usability of information, the meaning of design today, and the basics of editing. Despite the difficulty of the task, all the students took on the challenge and produced bold works. It was wonderful to tackle these issues. We think that the experience of actively discovering both the difficulty and fun aspects of “communicating” thoughts will be useful in their own research in the future.


In the first half of the lecture, we discussed the nature of design and thought of a familiar “not transmitted” design.

“Art is a medium that can express invisible dynamic elements.
Design is the medium that fixes the visible event”

The students received clear instructions: learn how to sketch and start creating works. Specify the location of the text, graphics and photos on a sketch paper sheet, and type specific text. The important point is to know where to put what.


During the production process, fine adjustments (e.g. number of pixels) were made with the teacher. Small differences affect the mood of the work. On the last day, the students’ work was reviewed. Each work was a masterpiece that pursued a design that was “not transmitted”. Some examples are shown below:


(Photos & Illustrations © “Media Editorial Design” Course, TiTech 2019)








31 July- 5 August 2019: Concept Designing

Following the workshop in February 2018, Concept Designing Joint Workshop was held under support from Rakuten Beauty Co., Ltd., with 31 participants. In this workshop, students will build concept from given theme using various communication methods and ideas, create some kind of prototype design, and give group presentation.

Date & Time: July 31st (Tuesday) -August 5th (Saturday) 15: 00-19: 00
Venue: (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Musashino Art University Roppongi D Lounge)
Participants: 15 Tokyo Institute of Technology students + 16 Musashino Art University students

Event Documentations: 

Photos © Nohara Lab 2019

[Information: From now on, the Concept Designing report could be found here in DeepMode website (previously on Creative Flow website)]

【今回から、コンセプト・デザイニング報告はCreative Flow WEBサイトから、こちらDeepModeサイトにお引っ越ししました】


参加者:東工大生15名  武蔵野美術大学生16名

1日目 7月31日(火):武蔵野美術大学六本木Dラウンジにて。武蔵野美術大学古堅教授と東京工業大学野原教授による事前講義を終えて、グループメンバー初顔合わせ。今年のお題は「似合う」「のようなもの」(お題は1つだけでも2つ使っても可)。早速話し合いを始めてアイディア出しに取り組みます。
2日目 8月1日(水):武蔵野美術大学六本木Dラウンジにて。武蔵野美術大学の袴田教授による「美術思考」についての講義。1日目の話し合いをもとにアイディアを形にしていきます。
3日目 8月2日(木):東京工業大学大岡山キャンパスにて。この日は中間発表でスタート。黙々と制作を始めたチーム、買い出しに向かうチーム、まだアイディア出し中のチームと取り組みもさまざまです。
4日目 8月3日(金)東京工業大学大岡山キャンパスにて。制作も大詰めに。
WS5日目 8月4日(土)東京工業大学大岡山キャンパス共創コモンズにて発表会。4日間の集大成を発表しました。先生方や外部ゲストから鋭い講評もありましたが、笑いのあるなごやかな発表かいとなりました。

Dr. Betti Marenko’s Lecture on “Technology and Product in Context” 2019

Intensive lecture: Technology and Product in Context

Faculty member in charge: Dr. Betti Marenko, Prof. Kayoko Nohara

Course Information

Code: LAW.X423/4Q
Credit: 1
Instructor: Betti Marenko
Format: Intensive class
Instruction Language: English

Class Schedule:

  1. 2 February (14.00 – 16.00): Tool to consider Post-Anthropocene
  2. 9 February (14.00 – 16.00): Narrative from human beings towards machines
  3. 16 February (14.00 – 16.00): Uncertainty of digitization of world-scale computation
  4. 21 February (14.00 – 16.00): Design the Future
  5. 23 February (14.00 – 16.00): Reconstruction of organic and inorganic matters through interaction of human and machine

Dr. Ulrike’s Methodology of Transdisciplinary Research (in English)

Ulrike Oberlack
Dr. Ulrike Oberlack. Photo © personal documentation
Dr. Ulrike Oberlack’s 4Q class, Methodology of Transdisciplinary Research 1 will be carried out in English.

Faculty member in charge: Prof. Kayoko Nohara/Dr. Ulrike Oberlack
Period: Three weeks from Dec 7.
Time: 407A, Workshop Room, South No.5
Class code: TSE.C317
Language: English

ウルリケ・オバーラック先生に4Q授業「融合技術論1  (Methodology of Transdisciplinary Research 1)」を英語で開講いただくこととなりました。


開講元  : 融合理工学系
使用言語 : 英語
担当教員名: 野原佳代子/Dr.Ulrike Oberlack
曜日・時限(講義室) 金13:30-16:30(南5 407A ワークショップルーム)
科目コード TSE.C317
単位数  : 1

21-28 July 2018: Entry Now! CSMXTokyoTech Wearable Hackathon

Hackathon (design workshop) will be held in July as part of the ongoing Biotechnology Wearable Fashion project. Full House – application closed, thank you!

“Existential Wearables” : In 10 years, what do people wear in Tokyo?

How will what we wear reflect how we feel, how we act and how we want to connect with others? How can a wearable technology enhance or affect how we want to exist as humans? As city populations and demography continue to increase and technology becomes even more embedded in our lives, how can we secure personal space and maintain a sense of freedom? How will our external apparel reflect our internal world – will what we wear help us to communicate, to disconnect or to cooperate with our surroundings?

The Existential Wearables project explores the interface between the body, technology and society to explore possible manifestations for future wearables. We will be facing a number of social issues such as aging, population decline, elderly nursing, immigration, in 10 years’ time in Tokyo. Our community sites including hospitals, schools, streets, offices etc have their strong and weak, good and bad, positive and negative  aspects of each, as if they show their own light and shadow. Considering the issues, expressing our thoughts and emotions, reflecting Tokyo’s history and culture, playing the ideas, we will create Existential Wearables.

Over 8 days we will bring together people from design, biology, art, engineering and technology to speculate through making, for a ‘hackathon’ of collaborative workshops working with programmable textiles and light emitting materials. Prototypes, designs and ideas created will be developed further and presented at a public event in Hikarie in late September 2018, intended to extend the conversation about life enhancing biotechnologies.

Ulrike Oberlack and Heather Barnett from Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London will conduct the hackathon in collaboration with Kayoko Nohara and Hiroshi Tsuda from Tokyo Institute of Technology. Drawing on the ideas generated in the previous fashion cafés and the workshops, students, industry people, artists/designers, and scientists/technologists will work together to build on the emerging ideas, hack materials and build prototypes.

(This is a credit course intended for Tokyo Tech graduate students.)

Hackathon Details:

  • Date: July 21 (Sat) , 22 (Sun if the participants like), 24 (Tue), 25 (Wed), 26 (Thu), 27 (Fri),  28 (Sat)
  • Time: Tuesday-Friday: 18:30-20:30   Saturday: 13:00-15:00 (subject to change according to the designing situation)
  • Venue: Ookayama campus
  • Credit: 1 unit
  • Language: English (assistance will be provided as needed)

Register here. Closed
Inquiry: e-mail to Megumi Hiraki (hiraki.m.aa@m.titech.ac.jp)

Tokyo Institute of Technology, School of Environment and Society: “Biotechnology Fashion” Workshop Project
“Support for Overseas Cultural Projects” 2018, from Arts Council Tokyo

2018 7/21-28 東工大大岡山キャンパス

これまでのカフェイベントやディスカッションでの議論た提案をふまえ、東工大その他の大学生、アーティスト、デザイナー、科学者/エンジニアはじめ多様な職種・専門のメンバーで協働し素材から検討してプロトタイプを作ります。東工大生は単位履修可能:2Q 広域教養科目 LAW.X423。


  • 7月21日(土)13:00 東工大南5号館407Aワークショップルーム
  • 22日(日)13:00 東工大石川台5号館3F デザイン工房
  • 24日(火)18:30 デザイン工房
  • 25日(水)18:30 ワークショップルーム
  • 26日(木)18:30 デザイン工房
  • 27日(金)18:30 デザイン工房
  • 28日(土)13:00 ワークショップルーム

時間: 火 – 金: 18:30-20:30 (現場で延長可能性あり),

土日: 13:00-15:00 (現場で延長可能性あり)


(本学大学院生の場合 単位: 1単位 広域教養科目)

言語: 英語(ただし教員が必要に応じて日本語でアシストします、議論は日本語でも可能)

お申し込みはこちらから:満員御礼! 締め切りました

問い合わせ 教務支援員 開めぐみまで (hiraki.m.aa@m.titech.ac.jp)


2018年 アーツカウンシル東京「海外発文化プロジェクト支援」事業