Now that the holidays are over, a lot of us can look back on pleasant memories of a break well spent amongst family and friends. Unfortunately, in order to rack up those pleasant memories, many of us have had to run the distinctly unpleasant gauntlet of air travel. Nothing says “Peace on earth and goodwill towards [all]” quite like a trip through the notorious pr0noscanner!
I’m heartened therefore to hear of the next logical step up from the land-mine-sniffing MouSensor we reported on back in November: Instead of sketchy radiation scans or invasive patdowns in private rooms, we can look forward to cute mice detecting air travelers’ suspicious scents!
According to Israeli developers BioExplorers, the invention dates from about a decade ago, when a spate of suicide bombings rocked their community. The situation required a flexible method of detecting the particular scent of explosives: Animals were considered to be the perfect fit. Several were considered for their smell-detecting abilities, size, and trainability; mice won out on all three points. In addition to the smell of explosives, they can also pick up on various narcotics and the distinctive scent of money. The process is straightforward:
“[A] traveller stands inside a small booth and is hit by a gentle blast of air that is then sucked into a small opaque chamber, where a group of eight mice are on duty. After eight seconds, assuming the subject is all clear, a green light appears and the barrier opens.
But if the air smells of a suspicious material the mice have been trained to detect, they gather in the so-called reporting compartment, which raises an alarm.”
So, unfortunately, it doesn’t involve dozens of twee little mousies snuggling you in a booth at security (and possibly singing you a Disney-esque song), but it’s pretty dang cute nonetheless. And, after the BioExplorers airport prototype becomes available this year, I’ll be looking forward to one less thing to feel existentially awkward about when I fly!