Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 16/9/2004The searchlight of IT innovation ceaselessly seeks out new areas for development. Today's lucky recipient of misplaced ingenuity is the nose -- as yet completely unexploited.

Thursday 16/9/2004
The searchlight of IT innovation ceaselessly seeks out new areas for development. Today's lucky recipient of misplaced ingenuity is the nose -- as yet completely unexploited. No longer. For starters, New Scientist reports the invention of the "nouse", the nose mouse.

A nose mouse -- no relative of the Armenian Nose Vole popularised by Dr Graeme Garden in the Goodies -- is a piece of image recognition software. Point a camera at your face, and the nouse will identify the tip of your nose. It tracks head movements and relays them to the pointer on screen -- blinking your right or left eye twice will trigger the appropriate click.

That might seem very silly, because it is. But at least you can see a use for those who cannot or will not use their hands, and we should be thankful that it doesn't involve a small light or specially coloured tracking gizmo to be fitted to one's proboscis.

Elsewhere in mondo conko, researchers from Siemens have built a chip that smells -- and not of vinegar, neither. By mixing a smattering of interesting chemicals into some clever silicon design, their nano-nose can detect a wide variety of airborne compounds: this isn't the first time this has been achieved, but Siemens is saying that this version is cheap, flexible and needs very little power. Suggested applications include breathalysers, smoke detectors, ozone warning devices and other handy ways to identify hazardous environments. It's a sort of electronic canary, I guess.

However, savvy marketeers will at once spot the potential to sell the gizmo on personal insecurities. Imagine an underarm deodorant that warns you when you need to top up, or a mobile phone which bleeps a halitosis alert when you're arranging that hot date. And as for working out exactly who in the office is emitting those horrendous guffs which waft aloft from time to time -- no company in the world could resist buying a load of networked seat implants.

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