Oshi Agabi has unveiled a computer based modem-sized device – dubbed Koniku Kore capable of recognising the smell of explosives and could be used to replace traditional airport security.
The prototype of the device unveiled at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania is an amalgam of living neurons and silicon, with olfactory capabilities — basically sensors that can detect and recognise smells.
According to Mr. Oshi Agabi:
“You can give the neurons instructions about what to do – in our case we tell it to provide a receptor that can detect explosives.”
He envisages a future where such devices can be discreetly used at various points in airports, eliminating the need for queues to get through airport security.
As well as being used for bomb detection, the device could be used to detect illness by sensing markers of a disease in the air molecules that a patient gives off.
Koniku Kore he believes has partially solved one of the biggest challenges of harnessing biological systems – keeping the neurons alive.
While computers are better than humans at complex mathematical equations, there are many cognitive functions where the brain is much better: training a computer to recognise smells would require colossal amounts of computational power and energy, for example.
Mr. Oshi Agabi is attempting to reverse-engineer biology, which already accomplishes this function with a fraction of the power it would take a silicon-based processor.
According to him: “Biology is technology. Bio is tech. Our deep learning networks are all copying the brain.”
He launched his start-up Koniku over a year ago, has raised $1 million (£800,000) in funding and claims it is already making profits of $10 million in deals with the security industry.
Advances in neuroscience, bioengineering and computer science means that much more is known about how the human brain works than ever before.
This is fuelling the development of neuro-technology – devices that aim to mould the brain into computers.