Electronic nose gives robots the power to smell

A postgraduate student has designed a device that gives robots the ability to smell. This technology could save lives by helping to locate the victims of natural disasters.

To initiate her research, Blanca Lorena Villareal studied the olfactory systems of living organisms.

Animals distinguish the source of an odour by registering the concentrations of the scent and the time elapsed as strength of the odour varies.

Villareal later applied mathematics to begin transforming the ideas into robotic realities.

Using artificial intelligence algorithms, she first developed a system that could recognise the smell of alcohol. Then, she altered the algorithms and developed them further to allow the detection of other scents.

smelling-robot

This robotic olfactory system uses chemical sensors to function as nostrils. Data is then transmitted to a computer, where it is evaluated to determine the direction and proximity of the source of the smell.

“Unlike in other olfactory systems, this has the feature that in each cycle of ventilation the air chamber empties, making sensors ready for a new measurement,” explained Villareal, who developed the electronic nose as a postgraduate at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico.

Since the system can detect changes in the direction of the odour within one cycle, the robot can quickly identify and locate its source.

The device is compatible with various robotic platforms so it is not limited to any single application. As a result, robotic smell-tracking technology could prove useful in a number of fields.

smelling-robot2

Because the device can recognise odours such as blood, sweat and urine, it could track people trapped in dangerous situations as a result of natural disasters.

It is already being implemented into a project by the Mexican National Science and Technology Council to test its efficacy in emergency rescue situations.

Maybe one day the device could also be used to track intoxicated drivers and keep our roads safer, as well.

Villareal has been named as one of the most innovative young Mexicans by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review for her contributions to robotics, and is continuing her research by developing algorithms that will widen the variety of odours the robot can recognise.

She is also working to integrate smell-sensing into the robot’s decision-making process.

In the future, smell-tracking technology could even be programmed into androids to heighten their sensing capabilities and further humanise robots, even equipping them with a sharper sense of smell than the humans who created them.


Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.