We take our senses for granted. We simply see, or taste, or hear, or feel, or smell. There’s nothing special about these things; they just happen. This may be true as far as carrying out our daily routine is concerned. Once you try to recreate human sensation in robots, however, you realize that our senses are pretty spectacular. Cameras and microphones provide robots with a sense of sight and sound. Researchers are even fine-tuning robots a sense of touch, but can robots have a sense of smell?
What is smell?
Smell is surprisingly straightforward when you consider how strange it initially seems. You can’t see smells, even though they are there. Some people can smell things while others can’t. We sometimes have strong memories associated with smells.
A smell – or scent or odor – is nothing more than one or more volatile chemical compounds. Humans can differentiate among more than 10,000 different smells. Different odor molecules activate olfactory receptors in our nose. These neurons send electrical signals to the brain, and the pattern of these signals helps our brain identify the smell.
Can robots smell?
Robots can’t smell in the same way that people smell. They don’t have noses or olfactory receptors, and different odors don’t trigger thoughts, emotions, or memories in robots like they do in people. There is a lot of research being done, however, to give robots the ability to detect scents through the use of chemical and organic sensors. Once we have the sensors perfected, the next step is getting robots to use this information.
Why would we want robots that can smell?
It may seem a little odd to try and create a sense of smell in robots. Are robots filled with joy at the scent of freshly baked cinnamon rolls wafting through the air? Probably not. There is good reason to equip robots with the ability to detect scents and odors in the air, however.
Robots could use air molecule sensors to analyze air quality and detect harmful pollutants, particulates, or carcinogens in the air. Even though humans have been smelling things for hundreds of thousands of years, we can’t sniff out radon or a chemical spill. Maybe one day robots could sense odors given off by the body to detect disease. Robots that can smell will help keep people safe. This is true in an industrial setting as well as a domestic setting.
Automation makes our lives easier and it helps keep us safe. That is, as long as machines are working properly. Call 479-422-0390 for Indramat support, repair, troubleshooting, and any of your Indramat motion control system needs.