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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Japan's Odor Tracking Robot

Whomever smelt it dealt it...

Fart jokes aside, I love dogs.

I have, up until very recently always been surrounded by dogs. I’m at ease around them, and they around me.

I am also fascinated by working dogs—the critters who work for the visually-impaired, the dogs who sniff out contraband at post offices and airports, canines who work alongside hunters, or who (used to) be rescue people who got lost in the woods or buried under an avalanche, and other working canines as well…

The one type of dog that I have not had the pleasure of seeing in action (and perhaps that’s a good thing) are the police dogs who are used to track suspects or even the so-called cadaver dogs.

While I was in Japan for three years teaching English, I did not have a doggie companion - though my neighbor across the street from my apartment condo did, letting him bark early in the morning and late at night. While I had a dislike for that dog, I realize I should have had a mad-on for the dog's owner.

There are no bad dogs, just bad owners.

But… Japan is at it again, however, seeking to deprive man of his best friend by replacing him with a robot.

I’m not talking about those robotic canine toys… no… I’m talking about a prototype robot developed by scientists from Kyushu University… a robot that can detect and track smells (spoors) left on the ground.

There are scent-tacking robots already in existence that can track air-borne odors… but they take a long time to analyze… no, the robot I am talking about, is one than can pick-up smells from the ground, and using its caterpillar treads (think bulldozer or tank) can follow the scent at an eye-watering rate of 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) per second.

Okay… it’s only 0.36 kilometers per hour (0.223 miles per hour), which is hardly quick… so maybe my dog buddies aren’t in any danger of being replaced… just yet.

The robot is developed by Hayashi Kenshi, Sassa Fumihiro (both surname first), and Zhongyuan Yang.

While no official name has been given to the robot, according to the ACS Sensors journal where the research was published, the robot uses a bottom-mounted tube to inhale smell molecules from the ground, moving it into its LSPR (localized surface plasmon resonance) sensor.

The LSPR sensor then measures changes in light absorption via a film of gold nanoparticles after it is after it is exposed to a target gas, which is currently ethanol… though other gases are now being considered.

Whatever… it works.

In fact, the poor-mans Wall-E (that’s what it looks like to me) read the word “odor” written on the ground, and using ethanol deposits, it was able to translate it into binary code, and thus “read” the word.

Anyhow… the robot works… but it will have a ways to go until it can replace the paw patrol.

But… is it just me, or will regular police officers one day as mechanical walking aid… like on the much loved (by me) cyber punk-police drama television show Almost Human that only ran for 13 episodes in 2013-14. It starred Karl Urban from the new Star Trek movies (the dude who plays Leonard Bones McCoy).

Karl Urban (left) and Michael Ealy who, respectively, played a human cop, and the world's most handsome combat model android on the television show Almost Human.
Andrew "Blaming It On The Dog" Joseph

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