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Mike Pomranz
Updated January 04, 2017

In the past, 2017 seemed like way into the future, and people had some crazy ideas about what was to come. For instance, the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi flick The Running Man begins in the year 2017, and I certainly don’t think our “once great nation has sealed off its borders and become a militarized police state, censoring all film, art, literature, and communications.” Actually, let’s just ignore that example. But my point is that even though we now possess all sorts of futuristic technologies – things like virtual reality headsets, self-driving cars and eggplant emojis – there are plenty of far-out ideas that have yet to come to fruition: like smell detectors.

But don’t count 2017 out quite yet (and not just because we are only four days in): A commercially available smell detector may be right around the corner. According to The Verge, a group called Aryballe Technologies is showing off an “optical nose” called NeOse at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (which takes place this week in Las Vegas).  The techie website writes that the device “uses a combination of chemical sensors and an optical system to identify different scent molecules and test them against a database of known smells.” Once this info has been gathered, NeOse only needs about half a minute to send its findings to an iPhone app – displaying a smell profile and, if the smell is in its database, an identification of the smell.


Though Verge admits that NeOse isn’t the first smell detector out there, the company behind it is hoping to find an audience thanks to its portable size and flexible app which allows users to input their own smells to test against. (I know what you’re thinking, and it’s gross.) However, all that user-friendliness won’t come cheap: Aryballe plans to sell their mechanical nose for between $10,000 and $15,000 when it’s released this June or July. “Aryballe says some of its primary markets are the food and cosmetics industries, where companies could record ideal smells for their products and then use the NeOse for quality control,” writes Verge. And if you can’t get excited about corporate quality control, what can you get excited about?

However, don’t give up your dream of having a smell detector in your refrigerator to help tell you what’s making it so stinky quite yet. We all know time keeps chugging along and the future will be here before you know it. So just stay patient and the price of smell-detecting technology will probably be affordable soon enough. Assuming we don’t face the terrifying future predicted in that other Arnold Schwarzenegger film… The Expendables 3.

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