38-year-old Nigerian Scientist Invents Computer Trained To Detect Smell Of Explosives
Nigerian neuroscientist Oshiorenoya Agabi envisages airports that will need no visible security system allowing people to just walk on to planes.
Agabi may have found a way to solve one of life’s puzzling dilemmas: how to make air travel pleasant again in case you could skip tedious airport security lines, while a special device able to sniff out explosives works silently in the background.
This is only one of the possible uses of what Agabi says is the world’s first neurotechnology device developed by his Silicon Valley-based start-up Koniku and unveiled at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania on Sunday.
While those in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are working furiously to create machines that can mimic the brain, or – like tech entrepreneur Elon Musk – implant computers in our brains, Agabi has found a way to merge lab-grown neurons with electronic circuitry.
As many grapple with the finite processing power of silicon, the 38-year-old said he had looked to the brain which is “the most powerful processor the universe has ever seen”.
To simulate the power of just 204 brain neurons would require a supercomputer, he said.
“Instead of copying a neuron, why not just take the biological cell itself and use it as it is? That thought is radical. The consequence of this is mind-boggling,” he said.
So he and a team of geneticists, physicists, bioengineers, molecular biologists and others set about doing just that, focusing on the problems that were particularly hard for silicon devices to solve.
This includes detecting volatile chemicals and explosives or even illnesses such as cancer.
‘A world first’
Agabi said the Koniku Kore device is “a world first” and able to do just that, essentially through breathing in and smelling the air.
The system has been trained to recognise the smell of explosives and could be used to replace traditional airport security, he said.
Eventually the modem-sized device – dubbed Koniku Kore – could provide the brain for future robots.
Experts said that making such systems mass-market was challenging.