The right nose

© iStock.com/PeopleImages/Fraunhofer IIS

At the Campus of the Senses in Erlangen, human sensory experiences are being studied and converted into digital form in partnership with private companies.

Human sensory perception goes digital at the Campus of the Senses in Erlangen.

Over five percent of Germans suffer from impaired senses of smell or taste. These disorders are caused by infectious diseases, among other things, and leave them unable to tell, for example, whether milk that initially looks drinkable has gone sour or bad. An auxiliary device, like a “pair of glasses” for the olfactory organ or tongue, would remedy this situation.

In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV and Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), we plan to digitally recreate human senses such as sight and hearing, and especially the senses of taste and smell. With the support of machines, it might therefore be possible to enhance people’s conscious awareness of potential risks and dangers in their environment and enable them to respond more appropriately.

As yet, we do not have an adequate understanding of the human senses, especially in terms of how senses such as smell and hearing interact with one another. Do people react differently to images and videos if they are simultaneously exposed to a specific smell? And what happens if the smell changes? The work carried out at the Campus of the Senses in Erlangen aims to answer questions of this kind.

For companies and start-ups in almost every sector, the campus provides an opportunity to develop new technologies and services. In cooperation with Fraunhofer IIS, companies can generate methods and technologies for collecting and interpreting empirical data on the human senses or responses to sensory stimuli.

In the next five years, there are plans to set up three laboratories, each focusing on a different area of research, along with a coordinating office. Thanks to the broad portfolios of the participating research partners, we can conduct joint interdisciplinary research projects in a wide range of subject areas such as engineering, medicine, chemistry, and neuroscience in order to convert human senses into digital form. The aim is to work with industry to develop interdisciplinary expertise, build knowledge, and promote technology transfer in the field of sensory research and development.