Smartphones may get ‘smell-o-vision’ thanks to this tiny electronic nose

electronic nose germany project smelldect 1

On a surface level, the idea of giving your smartphone a nose-like ability to smell sounds kind of gimmicky. But, just like previous gimmicky concepts such as incorporating a camera in your phone or speaking to your computer, the more you think about it the more sense it makes. From detecting rotten or spoiled food to smelling potentially noxious fumes, it’s easy to imagine how such an innovation could turn out to be pretty useful.

At least, that’s what researchers from Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) think. They have been developing a so-called “smelldect” project involving an “electronic nose” that is capable of sniffing out a range of different scents faster than a human can.

Dr. Martin Sommer, who coordinates the smelldect project for KIT’s Institute of Microstructure Technology, said that it uses the workings of the biological nose as its model. The human nose boasts around 10 million olfactory cells with around 400 different olfactory receptors. These receptors allow the nose to perceive different scents and generates a specific signal pattern to inform the nose owner’s brain what it is that they are smelling.

“In our electronic nose, nanofibers react to complex gas mixtures — i.e. scents — and also generate signal patterns, on the basis of which the sensor identifies the scents,” Sommer said in a statement.

The nose is just a few centimeters in size and contains all the necessary electronic components, including the tech to evaluate the gases. In the event that the specific patterns for a scent have been “taught” to the chip previously, the sensor can reportedly identify it in mere seconds.

“The difficulty consists in the fact that a scent does not always remain the same. For instance, the smell of a rose in the sun differs from that of a rose in rain,” Sommer continued. “Currently, we are training the electronic nose for specific uses which can be chosen universally, however.”

The researchers suggest that it could be used as an ambient air detector or smoke alarm, or as a shopping aid to determine how fresh meat or fish is. Beyond that, there is always the opportunity to give next-generation robots a sense of smell to join all their other increasingly smart senses.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Invisible until you need it, SimpliSafe is a no-hassle way to watch your home

These days, there a lot of do-it-yourself home security systems out there. How do you choose? Simplisafe’s latest offering brings together beautiful hardware and the ability to customize your home security package. We do wish that we…
Mobile

Here's the Samsung Galaxy S9's new Android 9.0 Pie interface

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are here. The flagship devices boast some awesome new features and a powerful new processor. Here's everything you need to know about these Samsung phones.
Emerging Tech

Wormlike motion sculptures show how athletes move in 3D

Researchers at MIT have developed a system that offers athletes a unique way to visualize their bodies in motion. An algorithm scans 2D videos of a person in motion, and generates data points that can be 3D-printed into "motion sculptures."
Emerging Tech

Giant wind farm in Morocco will help mine cryptocurrency, conserve energy

One of the windiest parts of Morocco is set to get a $2 billion wind farm power plant, which could help power eco-friendly cryptocurrency mining in a more environmentally friendly way.
Emerging Tech

Robots are going to steal 75 million jobs by 2025 — but there’s no need to panic

According to the World Economic Forum, robots and A.I. will take 75 million jobs from hardworking humans by 2025. That's the bad news. The good news is that they will create far more jobs than that.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. is designing retro video games — and they’re surprisingly good

Researchers from Georgia Tech have demonstrated how artificial intelligence can be used to create brand-new video games after being shown hours of classic 8-bit gaming action for inspiration.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Smart Home

Amazon might open 3,000 cashier-free Amazon Go stores by 2021

According to new reporting by Bloomburg, anonymous sources within Amazon say that CEO Jeff Bezos is considering opening up to 3,000 of the company's cashier-less, experimental Amazon Go stores by 2021.
Emerging Tech

Harvard’s soft robotic exosuit adapts itself to the needs of every wearer

Harvard engineers have developed a new multi-joint, textile-based soft robotic exosuit, designed to help soldiers, firefighters, and other rescue workers. Here's what makes it so exciting.
Emerging Tech

These flying cars want to take your commute to new heights

The future is closer than you'd think: Companies around the world are working on flying car models, with many successful tests! Here are all the flying cars and taxis currently in development, and how they work!
Computing

Tap Strap wearable keyboard gains support for VR applications

TAP System's wearable keyboard gains support for virtual reality, now compatible with Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and HTV headsets. Type and tap for up to eight hours in VR without needing to look at a physical keyboard.
Emerging Tech

Robot jellyfish could be used to patrol fragile coral reefs

Could schools of robotic jellyfish soon be patrolling the world’s oceans, monitoring fragile environments such as coral reefs? A team of United States researchers certainly thinks so.
Emerging Tech

Versatile robotic skin gives stuffed horse, other inanimate objects some giddyup

Researchers at Yale University have developed a new sensor-packed robot skin that can be wrapped around inanimate objects, such as toys, to transform them into functioning robots.