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The smelling machine

A team of Israeli scientists has developed an electronic nose (also called an e-nose or eNOS) based on chemical sensors that detect the transporter molecules of odors and software built on the olfactory responses of humans.

A. R. | 3 may 2010

The group’s research concluded that the computerized nose could predict the response of group of people from a range of odors with an accuracy of 80%. Its accuracy increased to 90% when it came to clearly distinguishing between pleasant smells and those which were incredibly unpleasant. This method stands out from other efforts to create electronic noses to the degree that it can process an entirely new smell and is able to predict whether the unknown odor will be qualified as pleasant or not by the human nose.

According to the scientists, these results show that perceptions about odors are neither personal or cultural, but rather are linked to the chemical structure of molecules and, therefore, can be predicted. The practical applications of the electronic nose could include environmental studies in addition to representing a first step towards the digital transmission of odors.

This study was originally published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

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