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A Google(s goog) April Fool’s Day post on Google Nose, a new service in beta that “leverages new and existing technologies to offer the sharpest olfactory experience available” may have been a joke, but it’s not that far from reality.
Just ask IBM(s IBM) which last December said technologies that endow computers with a sense of smell are on the cusp of reality, if not broad adoption. Or Cyrano Sciences, which the Washington Post points out, is working to give machines a sense of smell. An electronic nose that could sniff out explosives and food contaminants, could be hugely useful.
IBM, which fields a prodigious research organization, is convinced that endowing computers with human-like senses is a key focus and outlined its thoughts in its annual list of five technologies to watch last December.
Such technologies include chemical sensors that emit an odor when they detect some sort of pattern. “You can paint chemical sensors on a surface and when they detect a pattern, they give off a smell — you could make a rich paint with all sorts of sensors that mimic things that you like,” IBM fellow and VP of innovation Bernie Meyerson told me at the time.
If integrated with a smartphone, for example, these technologies could tell from your breath that you have or are about to get a cold and enable your doctor to diagnose you remotely based on that information and prescribe treatment.
So a computing device with a nose that knows is really not all that crazy.