Smell – The Next Frontier for AI

July 13, 2018

Smell - The Next Frontier for AI

Artificial Intelligence

So, last month after Digital Summit Portland, I was on my way back to New York. Around 10 AM and ready for the grind at security – take off jackets, laptops, keys, belts, shoes, no liquids above 100 ml, body scan – the usual experience at any American airport.

And out of the blue something strange happened. At the security line, a trained dog went past just once. Just once. No deep sniffing at each passenger. I did not think twice about the process, again not unusual for high-end security. But what happened next was the absolute gift for a tired traveller. Laptops stay in bags, no scan, nothing to take out, just walk past a metallic frame. It took about 5 minutes for nearly 50 people to clear security!

I then asked the officer on the other side, and he sure confirmed, that they trust the dog that much. And it takes the sense of smell to beat all forms of visual intelligence that we have today.

So what if the next generation of AI can learn the cognitive sense of smell? In the Indian tradition of mantras, smell has been very often used as a sure sign of the state of things.

“Om Trayambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam, …” from the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. The latter half meaning ‘ o lord you augment the good smells’


Indeed, even more than colour, smell is the first indicator of status change. Smell is a unique signature of different states of materials.

The airport security entirely trusted a dog. We should definitely be able to trust AI someday at the same level. At least I hope so!

Author: Sid Jhunjhunwala, CEO – Web Spiders

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