Artificial Olfactory Enhancement
The human olfactory system is responsible for perceiving the chemical world around us. By sampling the environment, we can determine the presence of other individuals, possible danger, or distinguish acceptable food. Consisting of our sense of taste and smell, the olfactory system is a highly interrelated coordination of chemical and nerve responses. Yet as we have all experienced, human olfaction has limits. The popular image of a bloodhound leading hunters through the woods is one example of these limits. The scent trail that is all too easily picked up by the hound is completely elusive to his human companions. This is partially due to the dogís possession of nearly twenty times more olfactory neurons than humans. Another example is evident in airports across the country. Long lines of passengers wait in line while a security guard swabs a bag and passes the sample under a mysterious black box. The machine squawks an alarm and the owner of the bag is promptly arrested for concealing explosive material. These are two simple situations in which the human olfactory system is not sufficient to meet our needs. We are dependent upon these machines and animals in order to achieve our goals. They are examples where we have identified a shortcoming of human abilities and have attempted to augment them through the aid of external devices. Nearly every aspect of human ability has seen the same attempt at embellishment. Even those that have lost functioning are able to regain some ability through the aid of external devices. Yet while wheelchairs and hearing aids are effective to an extent, it is doubtless that those individuals would benefit more if they were free from mechanical restraints. To integrate the advancement into the body itself creates an autonomous individual, whether brought back to normal functioning or elevated beyond.
In the case of an individual elevated beyond normal biology, we would have expanded our own potential. An olfaction enhanced security guard could detect explosives or drugs instantaneously, without the cumbersome dependency upon a stationary device. An enhanced doctor could evaluate a patient using the subtle scent cues often present in disease. The potential for olfactory enhancement is clear. This paper will examine the potential for an augmented human olfactory system using electronic devices implanted in the body.