For the 2021 Estée Lauder-sponsored hackathon, our team developed "SME11", a solution that aims to help people with anosmia diagnose their conditions, experience scents in an innovative way, and recover from weakened olfactory senses.
9 days (Oct 2021)
3 UX Designers (me)
1 UX Engineer
Our solution to help those suffering from anosmia was “SME11”, a service that helps them understand their conditions and experience scents visually, aurally, and spatially. It was born out of our desire to address one important problem -
Out of the 505 participants and 90 projects submitted, SME11 was awarded with the EPAM Innovation for Accessibility Award and selected as one of the finalists for the grand prize.
Our team of 4 CMU students was especially thrilled that the hackathon judges saw a real possibility of improving the lives of people with anosmia via SME11.
The 2021 Estée Lauder hackathon was held virtually for 9 days. This year's hackathon focused on accessibility, and asked participants to design a creative solution for people with disability.
We unanimously agreed to focus on anosmia because a family member of our teammate recently lost his sense of smell due to COVID-19. We were all familiar with the condition, having witnessed many friends struggle with a temporary loss of smell at the peak of the pandemic.
Given the time constraints, we recognized it would be difficult to equally attend to all phases of the design process. We hence decided to dedicate more time to the initial two phases, Discover and Define, for two primary reasons -
During the project kickoff, we established several principles to guide our solution design process. First, we agreed not to develop another typical app that is already prevalent and envisioned a truly innovative solution. Second, we aimed to design a product with high potential for impact to our users. Finally, we intended to build a solution that not only benefits its users but also adds business value for the solution provider
Anosmia is a serious condition that impacts millions of people. However, there is a lack of awareness and those suffering from anosmia are often overlooked because their conditions are not "visible.” We set out to acknowledge this by designing an experience that is both personal and tailored to individual users.
Our initial research and review of medical literature led to a couple important facts. First, anosmia conditions span across a range of severities from mild symptoms to chronic disability. Second, conditions for people with non-congenital anosmia can be treated by addressing specific root causes of the condition.
Regardless of the severity of conditions, everyone with anosmia shared how demoralizing it can be to lose smell. In interviews with several COVID-19 patients who had recently lost their sense of smell, they recounted the distressing days when everything both smelled and tasted bland.
Given that Estée Lauder is a major player in the cosmetics industry, we naturally drew a connection to its product lines. We particularly identified an opportunity to leverage ELC's capabilities as a perfume manufacturer to help patients with anosmia.
Although people with anosmia encounter numerous challenges in their daily lives, we prioritized addressing one main problem with a solution that is both pragmatic (creates business value) and impactful (benefits target users).
Considering the wide range of anosmia conditions, we needed to develop a solution that is broad enough to reach more than 1 specific target user group. In other words, our solution would have to address the full spectrum of anosmia patients, whose condition varies from mild and temporary to chronic.
Our team generated a number of novel ideas to solve the underlying challenge. Two in particular stood out as applicable to our goal -
Estée Lauder had recently piloted a Snapchat filter that uses augmented reality to market their perfume products.
Observing this, we also considered using virtual / augmented reality to create a multi-sensory (visual, auditory, and spatial) experience of perfume scents.
My recollection of using an aroma test kit during a wine tasting session triggered this idea.
In addition, several medical research suggested the effectiveness of a smell test at diagnosing and identifying weakened olfactory senses.
Once we defined our product idea, we wireframed user flows and mapped out the various touch points between our potential product and target users. Because our design involved several user touch points including the test kit, mobile app, and virtual reality feature, building a seamless user flow was paramount.
Most importantly, we ensured that the sequence of user processes accounts for the range of anosmia patients, both temporary and chronic - for example, sending a smell kit to a chronic anosmia patient would be senseless.
For inspiration, we studied design patterns from existing products associated with human senses, such as wine tasting apps, perfume commerce shops, and meditation platforms.
Our team used Figma to quickly mock up screen designs based on our final user flow. As the team's product designer, I developed the UI for task #2, "Completing self-diagnosis" to identify weakened senses.
From diagnosing one's olfactory condition to treating it through repeated exposure, SME11 aims to help those with anosmia. It brings perfume products closer to those who cannot smell by presenting them through a multi-sensory experience.
Answer a few questions about your favorite scent.
Based on your choice of images and words, we curate a list of perfume recommended just for you.
Use the kit samples to test whether you can smell certain scents stronger or weaker than others.
Better understand your conditions by knowing the scents you might currently lack.
Explore new perfume scents visually, aurally, and spatially through mixed reality.
Enable the multi-sensory experience of exploring and discovering your preferred perfume scent.
In-app purchase of recommended perfumes with base scents that can stimulate your smell.
Help expedite the recovery process through smell training and repeated exposure to weaker senses.
Our biggest challenge was developing one solution that can help the full spectrum of anosmia patients.We had to ensure our solution is both original and pragmatic while accounting for the edge cases of anosmia.
I believe that we were able to overcome this challenge by investing more time in the earlier project phases, Discover and Design, which allowed us to not only build empathy with the target users but also clearly define the problem to address.
This experience has taught me about the importance of collaborative problem solving in a time/resource-constrained environment - I learned how to promote a respectful and productive dialogue by effectively speaking out my opinions while appreciating divergent ideas from my teammates.