The Guardian: ‘Giving Computers a Sense of Smell’: The Quest to Scientifically Map Odours

Researchers have been developing electronic noses to help us detect certain compounds since the early 1980s, but while some are being used in industry today, their applications are often limited. “Demonstrations so far have either been very large analytical instruments, or are very narrowly targeted, or have relatively weak selectivity,” says Jacob Rosenstein, an associate professor of engineering at Brown University, who in 2018 co-developed a low-cost e-nose called Trufflebot.

According to some, what olfactory technology needs is a way of mapping molecules’ structures to their perceived smells. “Some molecules look very similar structurally and smell very different, and some look very different but smell very similar,” says Joel Mainland, a professor at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia. “You’re constantly trying to build a model to fix that problem.”

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