Computer Science

News and events

9 Jun 2018

AI is acquiring a sense of smell

AI is acquiring a sense of smell that can detect illnesses in human breath, according to Loughborough computer scientist Dr Andrea Soltoggio.

Writing in The Conversation (8 June), Department of Computer Scientist AI expert Dr Soltoggio said:

"As part of Loughborough University’s data science team, my colleagues and I are adapting the latest artificial intelligence technology to perceive and learn a different type of data: the chemical compounds in breath samples. Mathematical models inspired by the brain, called deep learning networks, were specifically engineered to “read” the traces left by odours."

"A team of doctors, nurses, radiographers and medical physicists at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre collected breath samples from participants undergoing cancer treatment. The samples were then analysed by two teams of chemists and computer scientists.

"Once a number of compounds were identified manually by the chemists, fast computers were given the data to train deep learning networks. The computation was accelerated by special devices, called GPUs, that can process multiple different pieces of information at the same time. The deep learning networks learned more and more from each breath sample until they could recognise specific patterns that revealed specific compounds in the breath."

Such technology could be used to detect markers of disease and could change the way illnesses are diagnosed. Computers equipped with artificial intelligence technology could take only minutes to autonomously analyse a breath sample that previously would have taken a human specialist hours.

Click here to read Dr Soltoggio's piece in full.