Sniffer Robot With Infotaxis Algorithms On The Hunt

Is it possible for a robot to follow a scent? Massimo Vergassola and his colleagues at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France think so. They have derived a new algorithm using a method they call "infotaxis" that is similar to the strategy employed by moths.

The simplest approach to locating the source of an odor is chemotaxis - moving in the direction of higher concentration. This doesn't work for large animals in turbulent air flows; the odor plume is not smoothly consistent from low concentration to higher concentration. A more sophisticated method is needed.

Locating the source of odor in a turbulent environment—a common behavior for living organisms—is nontrivial because of the random nature of mixing. Here we analyze the statistical physics aspects of the problem and propose an efficient strategy for olfactory search that can work in turbulent plumes. The algorithm combines the maximum likelihood inference of the source position with an active search. Our approach provides the theoretical basis for the design of olfactory robots...

Moths employ two distinct methods; "zigzagging" upwind when they have the scent, then "casting," which is moving crosswind to try to relocate the interrupted scent trail.

Robots could do the same thing, now that the math has been worked out.

Science fiction writers have long thought about robots with a sense of smell. In his classic 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury created the chilling mechanical hound that guarded the fire station:

The mechanical Hound slept but did not sleep, lived but did not live in its gently humming, gently vibrating, softly illuminated kennel...

Nights when things got dull, which was every night, the men slid down the brass poles, and set the ticking combinations of the olfactory system of the hound and let loose rats in the fire house area-way. Three seconds later the game was done...
(Read more about Ray Bradbury's mechanical hound)

Another attempt to visualize sniffer robots and assign them a practical task is found in the 1985 movie Runaway by Michael Crichton. In the film, detectives use a four-legged sniffer robot to find and identify trace compounds at a crime scene (see Crichton's sniffer robot from Runaway).

Robots are already in the testing stage who are able to detect odors and perform relevant actions. The RI-MAN health care robot has a smell-discernment capability, used to detect an incontinent patient. Other research includes the SPOT-NOSED nanobiosensors under development in the European Union.

Read more about sniffer robot software; download this earlier paper on Olfactory search.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/26/2007)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

X125 Snake-Arm Inspection Robot Video
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles...' - HG Wells, 1898.

FORTIS Exoskeleton Not Quite Ripley's Alien-Fighting Exoskeleton
'Earth's scientists solved the problem to some extent by devising rigid metallic clothing...' - Edmond Hamilton, 1932.

Kirobo Mini - Your Dashboard Droid
No protocol droid needed for translation!

3D Printed Soft Robotic Tentacle May Grab You
'Monique's tissues had at least three other basic attractor modes as well...' - Rudy Rucker, 1997.



Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.






Current News

Solowheel Xtreme Heinlein Tumblebug Video
'The cadets 'stood to horse' alongside their poised tumblebugs...'

Algorithm Predicts Marriage Success (HAL 9000 Will See You Now)
'I can tell from your voice harmonics, Dave, that you're badly upset....'

Denmark Island Earth (Verdenskortet ala Ringworld)
'They wanted to keep something of what they were losing...'

Humai Startup To Implant Your Brain In Robot Body
'The astounded onlookers saw a human brain snugly encased in a transparent skull-shaped receptacle.'

Blue Origin Reusable Rocket's Vertical Landing
We're getting there, one launch at a time.

X125 Snake-Arm Inspection Robot Video
'... long, flexible, glittering tentacles...'

Super-Thin Smart Glazing Displays
'...a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling color.'

Have Scientists Found A Parallel Universe Leaking Into Ours
'Ellis had found a weak point, a shimmer, at which another continuum completely had been visible.'

Active Wellness Smart Car Seat
'Maybe the car was right...'

Tech Tats Prototype Sfnal Devices
'...Permanently fixed in the centre of his forehead.'

ANNABELL AI Can Learn English From Scratch
'...Could understand not only classic programming but also Loglan and English..."

Tesla Suit Gives Haptic Hugs
'Then a pressure on the lips...'

Surgically Implantable Artificial Kidney Starts Testing
'George Walt... proved the workability of wholly mechanical organs...'

Self-Filling Water Bottle Is Beetle-Based
'That moisture trickles down...'

Senate Passes Space Mining Legislation
'The law of filing on newly discovered asteroids was definite...'

Microsoft's Surface Book Is Part Clipboard
'Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man's quest for perfect communications...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.