AI is learning to smell your armpits to warn you when you have BO

AI can tell if you’ve worked up a smelly sweat.
AI can tell if you’ve worked up a smelly sweat.
Image: Reuters/ Shannon Stapleton
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Ever get home from a long day in the office and realize, a little too late, that you sort of stink? Thankfully, scientists are now applying artificial intelligence to sniff out BO, and turn this into a problem into a thing of the luddite past.

UK software company Arm is working to create a smart chip that uses artificial intelligence capable of detecting smells and which would be woven into clothing, New Scientist reports. The chip would contain eight sensors to detect chemicals in the air, and the AI would analyze those chemicals to determine what smell they create, based on the strength of of the odors of various gasses. The chip, made from a thin sheet of plastic, would also tell you just how pungent the smell is, on a scale from 1 to 5, (it’s not yet clear precisely how it will communicate that information.)

The chips are part of the company’s “PlasticArmPit” program. The biggest challenge for Arm right now isn’t creating the technology, but making it cheap enough for mass production. As New Scientist reports, Warwick University engineering professor Julian Gardner first created similar chips, known as e-noses, 30 years ago, and co-founded a company in 1993 to sell e-noses to the food industry and sniff out stale or rotten food. Gardner’s early devices cost $20,000 each, and so they were only affordable to large corporations who stood to profit from sniffing out early signs of rot. Today, e-noses can be created for a couple of dollars. Though this sounds cheap, but it’s still costly enough to deter clothing manufacturers from incorporating the chips into their products. Arm wants to go even cheaper: The company plans to create chips that cost less than a cent, so that they can be easily embedded into consumer good, reports IEEE Spectrum.

Arm has not publicly announced when these chips will be available for purchase (Quartz has contacted the company for details on development plans, and will update this story with any comment.)