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.


Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC