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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - January 15th, 2021

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


Do you smell what the Eye on AI is cooking? Our focus this week is on –– you guessed it ––smell! And how olfactory learning, with the help of AI, is primed for revolutionary advances this year in consumer markets.


Smell Is On the Verge of Revolutionizing Consumer Markets

We’ll be looking at one thought-provoking article in particular this week, titled “We’re about to start sending messages with our noses,” in which WIRED contributor Natalia Kucirkova discusses how advances in smell-based communication and AI will likely alter science and content consumption in the coming year.

“Smell-based communication has been mooted for some time, but in 2021 we will see sophisticated ways of encoding, recording and reporting olfactory signals,” writes Kucirkova. “Processing of olfactory data will be added to search-engine/voice-search queries and integrated with multimedia information for sales, marketing, public messaging and educational purposes. Companies… are already developing smell simulators, voice-activated scents and bespoke odours tailored to individual projects and customers’ needs.”

Smell is perhaps humanity’s most underutilized sense. We’re taught from a young age how to listen, see, touch and feel. Smell we’re largely left to develop on our own. Many researchers believe that smell is the key to unlocking untapped learning and communication potential, and have begun partnering with the public-education sector to train teachers on the importance of smell in education.

“Educational resources (such as scratch ’n’ sniff cards for vocabulary teaching or scented books for fuller story immersion) will be used to facilitate memory retrieval and reading comprehension in primary and secondary students,” continues Kucirkova. “With my colleagues, we are conducting trials using olfactory books that connect specific smells and children’s learning of new words.”

We’re also beginning to see advances in olfactory uses in the medical field. Scents such as citrus have been proven to induce relaxation and reduce things like anxiety disorders. Others yet to be discovered may treat other psychological and even physical disorders. AI is helping researchers identify those with medicinal properties, with pharmaceutical companies exploring new ways to utilize smell in treatments.

Other consumer markets are already being altered with the help of smell AI. Retailers are exploring how to create scented shopping to enhance product marketability (a forest or meadow for the camping section, for example, or a museum replicating the smell of a historical period for a new exhibit). Brands are researching the possibility of redesigning websites to support olfactory exposure, which research has been proven to increase conversions. Car manufacturers are exploring the possibility of implementing smart noses in cars and trucks to detect mechanics issues prior to engine malfunctions. A drone called the “Smellicopter” was even unveiled this week, which uses a moth antenna to detect dangerous chemicals in war zones or development sites.

Without the help of AI, smell has been the most difficult sense to teach and understand. Not so any more. And while we saw many new developments in smell AI last year, it seems 2021 is primed to be a transformative one for smell AI.

“While 2020 was about automating and optimising olfactory technology, 2021 will be the year of transformative deployment of olfactory content,” continues Kucirkova. “Olfactory interfaces will become the new norm in all areas of retail and communication, with a possible shift for replacing standard touchscreens in the future.”

Other News


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