Robot To Detect The Source Of Odors

Where is that smell coming from? Tien-Fu Lu of the University of Adelaide in Australia believes he has the answer and is working on the programming that a robot will need to follow the scent.


(Proposed odor source localization robot)

He has written a software routine that allows a robot to seek a hydrogen sulphide source – which stinks like rotten eggs – in a set of offices.

The algorithm can only store the current odour concentration and the previous two, as well as the robot's position when the measurements were taken. If the level goes down as the robot moves, it means it is no longer facing the source – so it returns to the previous position to try another direction.

Science fiction writers have been thinking about bioelectronic noses for many years. An electronic nose, or sniffer robot was featured in the 1985 movie Runaway, written and directed by Michael Crichton.


(Sniffer robot from the movie Runaway)

The mechanical hound from Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 was also able to detect scents by setting the "ticking combinations of the [hound's] olfactory system".

"- nose so sensitive the Mechanical Hound can remember and identify ten thousand odor indexes on ten thousand men without resetting!"

See also this earlier article Sniffer Robot With Infotaxis Algorithms On The Hunt that also uses methods derived from insects for finding the source of odors.

From Indoor odour source localisation using robot: Initial location and surge distance matter? via NewScientist.

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