Building a better nose: Can a robot sniff as well as a dog?

robotic nose

Olfaction remains a stubborn biological enigma. Scientists are still piecing together the basics of how we sense all those volatile compounds and how our brains classify that information.

[Scientist Andreas] Mershin, however, believes that we don’t really have to understand how mammals smell to build an artificial nose. He’s betting that things will work the other way around: To understand the nose, we have to build one first. In his efforts with a brilliant mentor named Shuguang Zhang, Mershin has built a device that can just begin to give dogs—his panting adversaries—a run for their money.

Zhang and Mershin built the device in a 15-month sprint, and it still wasn’t finished when Darpa’s deadline arrived. When it came time to show their work, Mershin loaded up a large van with the contents of nearly an entire lab—hoses, tubes, pipes, syringes, a 300-pound optical table, and a frequency generator worth $70,000—and drove it from Boston to Baltimore.

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In the end, the mad dash paid off. The Nano-Nose passed the sniff-off and was able to sense isolated odors in the lab. It even beat dogs in a controlled environment.

Read full, original post: The quest to make a bot that can smell as well as a dog

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