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Motivation and Scope

The visionary concept of the artificial nose introduced the notion of perception into the realm of electronics. A breakthrough of perceptive electronics (in short: perceptronics) can only happen in a concerted effort of science, engineering and medicine which stringently builds on recent advances in nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.

Development of artificial senses

The question of how environmental stimuli are transformed into olfactory sensory impressions and are finally followed by reactions is increasingly difficult to answer with increasing complexity of the organism, and it is still not well understood in humans. On the other hand, nano-fabricated chemical sensors, e.g. so-called artificial noses can have a large degree of complexity already preventing a reductionistic understanding of their operation. Still, they lack by far the degree of sophistication achieved, for example, in the human sensory system.

Thus, in many cases specific mechanisms between stimulus and reaction stays in a so-called “black box“. Interestingly, for many applications it is of secondary importance to know the mechanism as long as a precise prediction of a reaction can be made. This paradigm resembles the approach of machine learning methods that currently attracts substantial attention of the community, and which allow reliable predictions of input-output relations by evaluating large amounts of data, even without detailed knowledge of the individual pathways.

This observation is at the heart of the perceptronics research group. Evolving current sensors towards the level of biological organisms is only possibly in an interdisciplinary and coordinated effort by involving experts in human perception (who understand the chain perception – processing – evaluation), nano sensorics (who provide the hardware) and machine learning (which develops and provides the software).