Everyone has struggled with wanting to eat the chocolate rather than the broccoli, wanting to watch television rather than go to the gym, or wanting to snack under stress. All these habits seem harmless in the short term, but often become habitual and impossible to change. They lead to weight gain, and if left unchecked, to obesity itself. While obesity is caused by many different factors, behavior is undoubtedly a significant one. Ultimately, each individual controls his or her weight.
We propose to reduce unhealthy behaviors and encourage positive behaviors via scent. Everyday experiences attest to the power of smell on our appetites. We salivate when we smell dinner cooking or pass by a bakery. We lose our appetites when something smells unpleasant. We want to harness scent to promote healthier eating habits. In our current society, people are oftentimes sedentary and stressed. All these factors lead people not only to eat more, but to eat unhealthily. Sonoma provides a set of innovative new solutions to reduce some of the crucial behaviors leading to obesity and weight gain.
Scientific research has shown that olfactory function or dysfunction have a huge effect on the development of obesity. Smelling certain odorants can reduce appetite and increase satiety, leading to sustained weight loss over a matter of several months. Studies show that scents decrease anxiety and stress and enhance motivation, suggesting new ways scent could contribute to weight control and weight loss.
Our device, Sonoma, harnesses and capitalizes on the power of scent as a virtual placebo to educate people, encourage healthful behaviors, and build social networks to address the obesity epidemic and its effects. Through the storage, transmission, and release of scents from a library of base oils attachable to the user’s smart phone or another similar device, Sonoma will provide users access to a whole new mode and system of combating obesity and weight gain. Sonoma also uses an interactive network platform where users can add friends, family, colleagues, etc. to their network. People is the user’s network can send and suggest scents to the user.
Sonoma is personal, mobile, and interactive, a unique offering for the personal health market. We envision Sonoma to help people to eat healthier, make exercise more fun, and reduce the biochemical indicators leading to increased appetite.
We strongly believe in Sonoma as a powerful tool for combating obesity, but we also envision its applications to be more manifold and expandable. We see Sonoma as an effective way to combat a wide swath of quotidian issues such as staying focused at work, keeping alert while driving, storing the memories you don’t want to forget, and combating depressive moods. In using scent as an organic and natural treatment, we lessen the need for time-consuming physician visits and expensive prescription drugs. Harnessing the power of scent can provide countless avenues for creating and revolutionize the way that we combat our own unhealthy behaviors, as well as creating a solid community of fellow users who are also intent on improving their own well-being.
Team Sonoma is made up of five undergraduates from Harvard College with diverse talents. Amy Chen is our resident leader regarding medical research and laboratory experimentation. Rachel Field is a mechanical and materials engineering student, with the necessary experience for designing and prototyping the core Sonoma device. Amy Yin is a computer programmer with experiences applicable for the business development of our project. Alyssa Blaize is a responsible and effective organizer, facilitator, and connector, who leads the charge in the marketing our idea. Ruirui Kuang is a trained writer and designer, who engages our project with the human factor and caters to the needs and preferences of our future customers.
In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be collaborating with various collaborators, such as: the Wyss Institute, the Harvard Institute for Global Health, Le Laboratoire, the Singapore Institute of Technology, The Lab at Harvard, and of course, The President’s Challenge. Additionally, we maintain close mentoring ties with Professor David Edwards, at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
We anticipate completing two prototypes by May 18, emphasizing our two avenues of development: the user interface and experience, and the scent-transmitting technology. These tangible products will effectively demonstrate the power of scent, as a tool in the battle against obesity and in other health-related issues.