How These “Robot Bloodhounds” Can Track Odours On Ground

New doglike robots dubbed bloodhounds as they track odours on ground

Robot Bloodhounds can detect odours on the ground

Robot dogs have come in many forms over the years. They’ve been iconic in works of fiction, but also designed for military use, for research, and of course for consumers.

From Dr.Who’s charming side kick ‘K-9’, to the terrifying dogs in Black Mirror’s Metalhead. Fictional depictions have covered the lighter and darker sides of robot dogs for decades. Boston Dynamics real-life, (slightly dystopian) looking ‘BigDog’, to the Sony Aibo show the contrast in ‘real-life’ robot dogs.

Researchers Zhongyuan Yang, Fumihiro Sassa, and Kenshi Haysashi from the Kyushu University in Japan have now taken the robot dog a step further. They have created a dog robot with an olfactory system, – robot bloodhounds – coined due to the bloodhounds heightened sense of smell. Yes, you read that correctly.

They are able to smell and analyse different odours. They’ve developed a robot with a gas sensor, that can pick up on spatial odour from on the ground, such as footprints. Much like bloodhounds, who are famed for their keen sense of smell and tracking abilities, these robots could potentially help with security or work as a larger connected pack.

Using LSPR technology (Localised Surface Plasmon Resonance), they can measure changes in light absorption using nanoparticles exposed to gas using a tube to pick up the scents from on the ground. Even more interesting is how they have even read the message ‘ODOR’ written in a binary barcode in scent.

It’s taken researchers two decades to develop an olfactory system so advanced. Whilst other robots can detect odours in the air, they are very slow at processing this and analysing it. The LSPR sensor system can travel at about 4 inches a second, making the process much faster.

If adopted on a wider scale, these dogs could be of great assistance in place of service dogs in dangerous settings, such as bomb detection and natural disaster recovery operations. Safe detection of gas leaks in construction and landfill would also be a safer application than humans. This type of scent technology could also assist in the development of artificially intelligent bio-robotics of other kinds; imagine if Sophia the humanoid robot had this level of developed sense of smell!

As scientists and researchers work on developing technology in various biological areas such as scent, but also computer vision, and natural language processing – a future with biologically functioning robots might not be that far off.


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