Wednesday, November 23, 2016

At the Cutting Edge of Olfaction

This is a really cool book on the state of the art as well as the future of artificial olfaction.

Human Olfactory Displays and Interfaces: Odor Sensing and Presentation
Takamichi Nakamoto (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan). 2013. 555 pages. direct link

Although good devices exist for presenting visual and auditory sensations, there has yet to be a device for presenting olfactory stimulus. Nevertheless, the area for smell presentation continues to evolve and smell presentation in multimedia is not unlikely in the future.

Human Olfactory Displays and Interfaces: Odor Sensing and Presentation provides the opportunity to learn about olfactory displays and its odor reproduction. Covering the fundamental and latest research of sensors and sensing systems as well as presentation technique, this book is vital for researchers, students, and practitioners gaining knowledge in the fields of consumer electronics, communications, virtual realities, electronic instruments, and more.

[From the Foreword, by Jiri Janata]
Olfaction and taste are two truly chemical senses in which the interaction of the molecule and/or group of molecules with olfactory receptors triggers a chain of complex physiological events, which end in a cognitively interpreted “sensation.” In humans, such sensation can be articulated and can lead to various descriptions that can be anything from general, e.g. “pleasant/unpleasant,” to highly specific, such as chlorine, ammonia, or cinnamon. For most vertebrates, smell is existentially important because it predefines actions as diverse as “to run” or “to mate.” It could be argued that some animals are biological machines whose sole purpose in life is to reproduce and olfaction is one of the key enabling functions.

For many years, engineers and scientists have been fascinated with the idea of explaining olfaction and constructing artificial olfactory machines that do just that. Thus, biology has once more inspired creative activity that has resulted in hundreds of worthwhile and also some questionable publications. It has even received recognition at the Nobel Prize level. The present book belongs to this enormously fertile, but complex area of scientific endeavor.

[From the Preface, by Takamichi Nakamoto]
Although a human interface for vision and audio has been already been developed, an olfactory interface has not. However, people are becoming interested in olfaction as the next-generation human interface. A human interface for olfaction is composed of an olfactory display and an odor sensing system called an electronic nose. An olfactory display is an output of a machine, whereas the odor sensing system is its input. These are important to realize a human olfactory interface. Since an odor sensing system has been studied for last two decades, the researcher population is relatively large. An international conference of machine olfaction is held every two years. However, there are not many olfactory-display researchers, since the olfactory display only recently evolved in virtual reality. Although both fields have been studied separately, it is indispensable to see and understand both the olfactory display and the odor sensing system for developing human olfactory interfaces and their applications.

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