Smell and Learn

Smell-o-vision near you? The work to digitize scent is happening right here.

What if we could capture a scent like we do an image in a photograph? Would that information help diagnose disease? Could brands avoid losses incurred when a new shampoo scent or chip flavor lands with a thud?

That’s what Silicon Valley-based Aromyx Corporation hopes to do. And an interdisciplinary team of Broncos is developing the data analysis and visualization platforms powering that quest.

Directed by Navid Shaghaghi, a lecturer and researcher in the School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences, students collect data to sniff out how people experience taste and smell and identify the language they use to describe their olfactory sensations.

“Students are scraping information from beer, wine, cheese, and other product reviews … looking at flavor profiles and how people describe them,” Shaghaghi says.

Knowing which receptors drive the positive aspects of perception can help manufacturers determine which products to put through to production.

In weekly video conferences, students check in with mentors on the work they’ve accomplished on their own. These meetings are design sprints—a proven method for rapidly validating, testing, and prototyping ideas based on real customers’ feedback. Real–world, on-the-job experience that’s nothing to sniff at.

post-image A dog's nose is one of the most effective around. / Image by Miguel Borges from Prince Rupert, BC, Canada, Creative Commons license.
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