Rewired, a robotics-focused "venture studio" based in London and Lausanne, Switzerland, just struck a partnership with a company called Aromyx, which is bringing two long-neglected senses into the digital world.
Based in Palo Alto, Aromyx develops technologies that enable scientific, reproducible measurement and digitization of taste and scent. They've commercialized the human olfactory system.
Digitally replicating taste and smell in a repeatable way has been difficult for engineers, biologists, and chemists, in part because it requires a complex coordination of all three fields. But Aromyx, working with scientists at Stanford, has figured out how to reproduce the biochemical signals that our sensing organs send to the brain and measure those signals in a meaningful way.
The company's EssenceChip is a disposable biosensor that can be adapted to a number of non-laboratory environments. The method of action underlying the technology is both alluringly straightforward and endlessly complex. (There's a good lay explanation here, if you're into biology.)
Commercial applications are easy to imagine: quality control for food and beverage companies, flavor and fragrance refining for food chains, helping car companies nail that new car smell (no joke: luxury brands spend gobs on new science to give them insights into their customers' sense experiences).
And the universe it unlocks for robotics could be enormous.
Rewired is a great fit for a technology partnership -- it's a lavishly-funded sandbox for robotics development. "Rewired believes that improving sensory capabilities will unlock the next-generation of smart robotics," according to a spokesperson.
It'll be interesting to see what Rewired-affiliated engineers come up with. Humans use their senses to cope with the real world and make decisions; taste and smell are paramount to our daily experience.
But what will it mean for robots? More to the point, what it will mean for what robots end up doing for humans?
"Kid-Keeper 4000, does the baby need changing?"
"Siri-bot, is this milk still good?"
"Robo Sous-chef, does this sauce need more salt?"
Rewired, hopefully, will come up with some better ideas. Don't be shy helping them out in the comments.
"As with visual recognition in the 1980's and speech recognition in the 1990's, olfactory and taste recognition technology is set to advance," according to the spokesperson.
In addition to the technology partnership, Rewired invested in Aromyx's latest multi-million dollar round.