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Jas Brooks

Chemical Interfaces: New Methods for Interfacing with the Human Senses

Research Abstract:

Since the advent of computer interfaces, significant strides have been made toward providing high-fidelity visual, auditory, and haptic experiences. However, stimulating the senses of smell, taste, and temperature has sorely stagnated over the last century, primarily due to the field’s dependence on adapted methods from mechanical and robotic engineering. I posit that novel interfacing techniques are necessary to engage the human senses fully. My research explores the integration of these underutilized yet crucial senses by investigating a new class of devices termed “chemical interfaces.” These devices manipulate the human senses by interfacing with our perceptions’ biochemical cascades through carefully selected chemicals. Unlike conventional approaches originating from robotics or mechanical engineering, chemical interfaces provide distinctive affordances. My research illustrates several such affordances, including reduced power consumption for thermal feedback, miniaturized versatile mechanisms for haptics, and new interactions for taste via chemical selectivity. My approach lays a promising foundation for incorporating these rich senses into our digital interactions. In the near future, I am excited to explore their potential application as assistive technologies, such as to help people who lost their sense of smell or provide real-time dietary interventions for people modifying their dietary behavior.


Jas Brooks (they/them) is a Computer Science Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, advised by Professor Pedro Lopes. Their research focuses on engineering devices that chemically stimulate and manipulate the human senses. These chemical interfaces have reduced power consumption for thermal feedback (CHI 2020 Best Paper), miniaturized feedback mechanisms for haptic wearables (UIST 2021), created novel modes of interaction for taste (UIST 2023), and inspired new sensations like stereo-smell (CHI 2021). Jas has published work at top Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) venues, including ACM CHI and UIST, of which 2 received Best Paper Awards. Their work has also been awarded an Honorable Mention in the Fast Company Innovation by Design Award for Experimental Design and covered in media publications like WIRED, Fast Company, Digital Trends, and IEEE Spectrum. Jas is a 2024 Siebel Scholar, was a UChicago Media Arts, Data, and Design Graduate Fellow, and received support for their research from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This summer, they completed a Research Internship at Microsoft Research New England. In their spare time, they independently explore media archaeology, focusing on historical scent technologies and associated media from the 20th century onwards. Their co-curatorial work was a finalist for the 2022 Sadakichi Award for Experimental Use of Scent.