Projects      Playground      Art      About

Smell like Home

Multisensory Virtual Reality Experience | Unreal Engine|
2022-2023 | ITP Thesis 


ITP Spring Show 2023 | USC Games Expo 2023


“Smell like Home" is a multisensory virtual reality experience exploring concepts of home and belonging through the evocative power of scents embedded in memories, immersing viewers in recreated virtual environments that resonate with emotions and memories related to home. Using an innovative scent-releasing device designed specifically for this project, viewers will navigate through emotional responses to home, capturing 3 pivotal moments in the creator’s life marked by 3 distinctive scents.

Technical Details

Virtual: Unreal Engine 5, Meta Quest 2, Blender, Motion Capture, Motive, Motion Builder
Physical: Arduino Nano, 3D Print, Lasercut, Air Pump, Solder Circuit, Spray Paint


Thesis Advisor: Sharleen Smith
Mocap Actors: Tinrey Wang, Addison Worthington



"Smell Like Home" is a VR + scent exploration game that revolves around the concept of home and how to discover it through the power of scent. As I grew up and moved away from my childhood home and parents, I began to wonder what home really meant to me. This project offers a unique personal journey through the use of an Insta camera to capture images of objects that remind one of the scents of home, such as the lychee tree or coffee cup. The captured images trigger the scent camera to release the corresponding scent, thus evoking memories and emotions associated with home. The entire game journey has a relatively linear structure, containing five levels, including an introductory level and an end level, both of which are within the camera, as well as three memory levels that tell the story of past occurrences in reverse chronological order. Within each level, there are multiple interactables that encourage players to explore and interact freely, in no particular order. However, there is a key object at each level. Players need to interact with that key object in order to move from one scene to the next.

Final Scent Diffusing Device in Camera Form


Full Length Walkthrough Video


Odors have a unique ability to evoke powerful memories and emotions associated with a person's childhood. This is due to the fact that the olfactory system, responsible for detecting and processing smells, is intricately connected to the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotions, memory, and behavior. The ability of odors to evoke powerful memories and emotions from our childhood makes them an important tool for understanding our personal history and identity.    
In the process of researching, I also created my own research library on notion, for olfactory, emotion and memories information I read academic papers and books such as multisensory museum and some aromatherapy principles, and for game design mainly from gdc presentations, as well as other VR experiences and games, from which I gained a lot of inspiration.
Here are some examples in my research library:


Game Design

Project Background

The story starts with several question: 
1. What I'm thinking about when I think of home. Is it my parents, a specific house, or a place that creates a sense of belonging.
2. When I smell some scents, they if evoke memories of a particular home for me
3. How the first and second questions are related?

So I decided to make this project
which is a journey for me who is lost in the search for the definition of home and where I belong
And using the smells of home in my memories to help me find the definitions of home in this journey

Game Journey

Family photo as the hint trough 3 levels

Story Board



Charatcers Modeling

Animation: Motion Capture 


Technical Details

This VR project is made with Unreal Engine 5 for Meta Quest 2, with a 3D-printed physical scent camera working as an add-on and diffuser. When the player takes pictures in the virtual world, Unreal Engine will send OSC messages through WiFi to the Arduino, activating the air pump from one of the three channels, and then the airflow passing through the air tube and scent filter will reach the player’s nose with scents. The physical camera is modeled in Blender, 3D printed with ASA and PLA materials, sanded to smooth, spray painted with color, and finally sealed with a matte finish. In addition, Motion Capture, Mixamo, Blender, and Motion Builder are used for modeling and animating partly objects and two characters.

Physical Camera 

Easily attach to the VR controller

3 channels scent system controlled by Arduino through Wifi

Iterations on the attachment


Development Process

End this journey with photos of the best memories

Olivia Yin ︎ ︎  ︎  ︎ ︎ ︎︎