Rating as probably one of the stranger human-computer interfaces we’ve seen, the Sensabubble allows users to receive alerts and feedback from their connected devices in the form of images, text, and smell – all encased in and projected on smoke-filled bubbles. Popping away annoying alerts is viscerally more satisfying than swiping them off, but this isn’t a toy. It's part of research being presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems by researchers from the University of Bristol.

The core of the machine is a significantly more advanced bubble blower than you had as a kid, with a head that drags through a trough of bubble solution, after which its bladder fills with opaque fog, then provides the puff of air to release a bubble.

But it gets a little wackier from there. The bubbles aren’t just dispensed, but tracked by the machine so that icons, text, and colors can be projected on their opaque surfaces. Additionally, the bubbles can be filled with scents for additional feedback or information which lingers longer after the bubble is popped and the projected images disappear.

With so many types of information that can be contained on just a simple bubble, time-dependent as well as sensory, Professor Sriram Subramanian has several visions for putting SensaBubble to work. In addition to the ambient notifications depicted in the video below, he describes a SensaBubble clock that counts off the hour with the appropriate number of scented bubbles, and SensaBubble Maths which provides rewards and feedback to children with different scented bubbles.

With its unique attention-getting properties, he also envisions Sensabubbles being useful in advertising or educational museum exhibits.

Subramanian will present his research on April 30 at ACM CHI.

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