Scientists create a robot capable of detecting odors as if it were a living being

Created by researchers at Tel Aviv University , this new robot  can detect odors using insect antennae, electronic devices, and AI .


Robots have progressed by leaps and  bounds in recent years thanks to the emergence and implementation of new technologies. The most recent improvement in these machines has managed to create a specimen capable of perceiving odors as if it were a living being. A group of scientists was able to replicate the sense of smell using a composition of insect antennae and artificial intelligence .

As highlighted by the Neuroscience News portal , this project was carried out by researchers from the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University. The work was led by Neta Shvil , a doctoral student at this institution, and included other members such as Dr. Ben Maoz from the Fleischman School of Engineering and Professors Yossi Yovel and Amir Ayali from the School of Zoology.

A new feat of robotics

The original report mentions how the scientists involved in this project managed to recreate the sense of smell of living beings in a robot . As indicated, this technology to detect odors would be the most advanced of its kind and is 10,000 times better than other devices or technological products specialized in this specific area.

To make it work, the researchers developed a “biohybrid” platform that uses biological sensors connected directly to the machine’s electronics. Thanks to this and the artificial intelligence algorithms, it was possible to successfully build a robot capable of distinguishing odors like no other device has been able to do to date.

But this is not all. To make the biohybrid system work, the study authors used antennae taken from a desert locust , and these biological parts were then connected to other electronic systems capable of measuring the amount of electrical signal the antennae produce when detecting odors. The device was linked to an AI to give the robot the ability to distinguish odors based on their output signal.

Using all of this data, the researchers were able to create a system that successfully differentiated the eight pure odors that our olfactory system recognizes, including geranium, marzipan, and lemon.

Why is it necessary for a robot to be able to smell?

The study explains that the technology designed for this robot works in a very similar way to human senses: the stimulus is perceived by a sensory organ and the brain converts it into electrical impulses to decipher the data later. “Nature is much more advanced than we are, so we must use it. The principle that we have demonstrated can be used and applied to other senses, such as sight and touch…” , mentioned Dr. Ben Maoz .

The application of this system in robots can achieve feats such as the detection of drugs and explosives, going through pests in the agricultural sector and even the identification of cancer cells. “For example, some animals have amazing abilities to detect explosives or drugs; creating a robot with a biological nose could help us preserve human life and identify criminals in a way that is not possible today. Some animals know how to detect diseases. Others can perceive earthquakes. The sky is the limit” , Maoz concluded .