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Who's talking with the nose? by Katia Elkaim

Dernière mise à jour : 2 mars 2021

"Our language is worthless when it comes to describing smells." - Patrick Süskind, Le Parfum.

The first smell that struck me this morning was the soft, round, slightly milky smell of my puppy who came to wake me up with her kisses. This scent instantly induced a protective instinct in me and the desire to dip my face into the little fur. Then I thought back to my old Bernese Mountain Dog who used to do the same with his gutter breath and my repulsion, even though he was the most affectionate dog in the world.

Smell has always played a major role in my perception of the world; sniffing any object before using it, hating highly-scented places, and running away from public toilets has always been part of my daily life.

One day I lost my sense of smell when I had sinusitis and, miraculously, my mind suddenly became soothed, as if, deprived of odors, it could partially rest. This respite only lasted a while, until I realized that I no longer smelled flowers either, nor my children, nor the emotion of a companion.

Without smelling, I no longer felt anything.

So, imagine my interest when I heard about the Odeuropa project this morning. Funded to the tune of 2.8 million euros, this initiative aims to reproduce smells using artificial intelligence and to preserve them as cultural heritage for future generations.