March 12, 2008 Inventorspot reports on a new development from Japan where researchers at the Shiga University of Medical Science have taken the common local food condiment, wasabi (or Japanese Horseradish), and created a unique smoke detector/fire alarm based on smell as an aid to the deaf in case of an emergency.
Most alarms rely on sound to alert us of potential danger - clearly not the right option for those suffering from hearing impairment. Systems using strobe lighting have also been developed but this approach has limitations, particularly if you are asleep, so researchers turned to the olfactory senses for this new development.
Wasabi has a super strong odor and when the green paste is consumed on quantities any bigger than about a pinhead, it packs a big punch. Burning in the nasal cavity is a common reaction. But used properly, the taste is amazing and the perfect complement to nori or sushi rolls. Based on the power of wasabi, the researchers built a silent smoke alarm with spray cans of wasabi extract inside.
Testing was conducted with a prototype alarm and 14 test subjects. The testers went to sleep in a room and once in a deep slumber, the scientist released the wasabi extract smell into the room. The test showed 13 out of 14 test subjects waking within two minutes. One of the testers, who is actually deaf, awoke in just 10 seconds from the perfume being sprayed into the room, perhaps highlighting the heightened senses of those with hearing impairments and the potential for this alarm. The creators of the wasabi alarm hope to have a final version available for consumers within two years.
See the BBC report on the olfactory alarm http://video.aol.com/video-detail/japanese-invent-silent-wasabi-smoke-alarm/2451836440.