The Nasal Ranger Is a Real-Life Smell-O-Scope

It was easy to laugh at Futurama’s Professor Farnsworth when he unveiled the Smell-O-Scope. What use could there possibly be for a device that detects and measures odors?

As it turns out (in the cartoon and in real life) the Smell-O-Scope is a pretty handy tool. But the Professor didn’t invent it; smell detectors, called olfactometers, have been around since the late 1960s.

The most popular olfactometer on the market today is the delightfully named Nasal Ranger. The telescope-shaped meter is fitted with a small mask at one end and a dial at the other. Inquiring sniffers put their nose into the mask and inhale, then use the dial to determine the strength of the odor.

The Nasal Ranger may look silly, but its users are deadly serious. Environmental health departments, wastewater treatment plants, landfill managers, and even police departments whip out the Nasal Ranger when things start to stink. Measuring the intensity of an odor can help locate the source of the problem [PDF]—or identify who’s breaking the law.

Some time after marijuana was legalized in Colorado, state officials realized they’d have to create some new ground rules. Residents had begun complaining about the pall of pungent pot smoke that hung in residential areas and near grow facilities, so the city of Denver passed an ordinance [PDF] banning intense marijuana odors. Any smell measuring more than 7/1 dilutions to threshold on the Nasal Ranger would be considered a nuisance, and the people responsible would be fined.

To enforce this ban, investigators armed with Nasal Rangers patrol the city, responding to smell complaints, of which there are plenty. The olfactometers are a welcome sight to some. To others, it’s something of a joke. The pot culture magazine High Times asked two of its correspondents to test-drive a Nasal Ranger. Unsurprisingly, they used it to get high.

Smell is a vastly underrated component of our everyday experience. St. Croix Sensory, the Minnesota-based company that makes the Nasal Ranger, offers a surprising menu of sniff-enhancing experiences. There’s the Nasal Ranger and scent-tracking software, of course, but you can get your products, materials, or environment tested for smells; enroll in Odor School; or even add “smell-scapes” to your art installation or theatrical production.

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Sensorwake, Kickstarter
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Wake Up to the Aroma of Cappuccino With This Scent-Emitting Alarm Clock
Sensorwake, Kickstarter
Sensorwake, Kickstarter

Some people need an aggressive alarm clock to get them out of bed, like Simone Giertz's slapping robot, or the singNshock, which zaps you if you hit the snooze button. For others, a gentler wakeup call is what does the trick. That's what you get with Sensorwake, a new alarm clock on Kickstarter that gradually stimulates three of your senses to ease you into the day.

During the first minute of the alarm's three-minute wakeup process, it releases a pleasant aroma. You have your choice of scent cartridges, including cappuccino, peppermint, rose garden, chocolate factory, orange juice, and pine forest. A single cartridge lasts 30 days before it needs to be switched out.

After reviving your nose, Sensorwake activates its visual component: a soft light. For the final minute, the gadget plays sound like a traditional alarm clock, but instead of a blaring buzzer, you hear one of five upbeat melodies. If all that isn't enough to get you on your feet, you can hit snooze and wait for the cycle to start over in 10 minutes.

With more than three weeks left in its Kickstarter campaign, Sensorwake has already multiplied its original funding goal of $30,000. To reserve a clock and two scent capsules of your own, you can pledge $59 or more. Shipping is estimated for November of this year.

[h/t Mashable]

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Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL
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MIT’s New AI Can Sense Your Movements Through Walls Using Radio Signals
Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL
Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL

New artificial intelligence technology developed at MIT can see through walls, and it knows what you’re doing.

RF-Pose, created by researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), uses wireless signals to estimate a person’s pose through a wall. It can only come up with a 2D stick figure of your movements, but it can nonetheless see your actions.

The system, described in a new paper [PDF], uses a neural network to piece together radio signals bouncing off the human body. It takes advantage of the fact that the body reflects radio frequency signals in the Wi-Fi range. These Wi-Fi signals can move through walls, but not through people.

Using data from low-power radio signals—1000 times lower than the power your home Wi-Fi router puts out—this algorithm can generate a relatively accurate picture of what the person behind the wall is doing by piecing together the signals reflected by the moving body.

The system can recognize movement in poor lighting and identify multiple different individuals in a scene. Though the technology is still in development, it’s not hard to imagine that the military might use it in surveillance, but the researchers also suggest that it may be useful for video game design and search-and-rescue missions. It might also help doctors monitor and analyze the movements of patients with disorders like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

This is just the latest in a series of projects using radio signals to mimic X-ray vision. CSAIL has been working on similar technology using Wi-Fi signals for several years, creating algorithms to recognize human forms and see motion through obstructions. In the future, they hope to expand the system to be able to recognize movement with 3D images rather than the current 2D stick figures.

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