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Machine aims to replace drug dogs
    #2125342 - 11/20/03 04:51 PM (14 years, 6 months ago)


Machine aims to replace drug dogs

The Associated Press - ATLANTA

A new invention can sniff like a dog, find drugs like a dog and help police catch criminals like a dog.

One day soon, the so-called Dog on a Chip may replace the police officers best friend _ the K-9 drug dog.

Georgia Tech researchers have developed a machine that can instantly sniff out cocaine and other illegal drugs without the hassle of feeding, training and interpreting a police dog.

This works the same way as the dogs, said Bill Hunt, the electrical engineering professor heading the project. This is what the dogs are doing. Theyre picking up on the vapors coming off the cocaine.

From a few feet away, the device can smell microscopic amounts of a drug _ as little as one-trillionth of a gram.

So far its only programmed to detect cocaine, but it could eventually be developed for a wide range of applications, Hunt said. It could be used to find marijuana, heroine, bombs, cancerous cells, anthrax or other chemical agents.

Its exciting, and it has a wonderful potential in many different realms, said John Cairney, a professor at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology who reviewed Hunts work.

The machine is a rectangular plastic box slightly smaller than a phone book attached to a cube with two antenna-looking tubes coming out of it. These tubes are the machines nose _ they suck in and spit out air.

Inside the cube is a computer chip that measures when a substance such as cocaine is present. To improve accuracy, the device also uses protein-based antibodies that bind with cocaine molecules, essentially boosting the signal.

A handheld, in-the-field model of the machine hasnt been created yet. But Hunt envisions a six-by-four inch rectangle that could light up or make a beeping sound when cocaine is present.

A report on the machine was published Saturday in the academic journal Analytical Chemistry, written by Hunt and graduate students D.D. Stubbs and Sang-Hun Lee.

Electronic nose technologies have been around since the 1980s, but so far, none has been as sensitive as a dogs nose.

Theyve been trying forever, said Dan Gordon, a private investigator and owner of Homeland Security Dogs in Palm Springs, Calif. Besides, dogs are more fun. You can throw a Frisbee with them.

Trainers say their dogs are accurate and reliable when searching a potential crime scene.

But there are several disadvantages too. With a handler, housing and other expenses, detection dogs can cost $100,000 a year. Even the best handlers dont always know what their dogs mean when they start barking.

And theyre noticeable. The minute a drug dealer sees or hears a dog, he knows police cant be far behind.

Officers like Sgt. Wes Partin III of the Richmond police find it hard to believe that a machine could do a better job than their drug dogs. His retired dog, a Belgium Malinoise named Speedy, helped him find countless stashes of dope and cash, Partin said.

A machine that can replace dogs? You gotta be kidding me, Partin said. Id have to see that to believe it. I dont believe a machine could ever be as versatile as a dog. They can go anywhere.

Researchers say dogs can be deterred by tricks of the drug trade, like surrounding bags of cocaine with coffee grains to mask the odor. That wouldnt work against the Dog on a Chip.

Its so sensitive that it could detect traces of cocaine on $100 bills, although it hasnt been tested for that, Hunt said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation allowed the Georgia Tech inventors into their crime lab while officers were analyzing cocaine samples. The vapors given off from the cocaine were in the room, which allowed them to test the machine.

There could be a use for an electronic device that would be able to accurately sense or detect drugs, similar to the way a dog could, said Mark Burns, manager of the chemistry section at the GBIs headquarters. It could be more applicable or beneficial than a dog.

Graduate student Tony Dickherber, 27, wants to further the research to be able to detect vapors from cancer. He hopes to help develop similar devices that could help doctors easily and quickly detect cancerous cells.

What attracted me to this lab was the realizable goal. Its not like some kind of star wars technology, he said.


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Re: Machine aims to replace drug dogs [Re: motaman]
    #2125635 - 11/20/03 06:55 PM (14 years, 6 months ago)

i can't imagine the pricetag on that sort of thing...

your tax dollars at work.

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Invisiblesir tripsalot
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Re: Machine aims to replace drug dogs [Re: motaman]
    #2125646 - 11/20/03 06:58 PM (14 years, 6 months ago)

This could be good in a way, only if it is as good as a dog. That's because if people could get their hands on one of these machines or the technology and they would be able to refine their smell proofing of the drugs they are smuggling.


"Little racoons and old possums 'n' stuff all live up in here. They've got to have a little place to sit." Bob Ross.

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Error: divide byzero

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Registered: 04/27/01
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Re: Machine aims to replace drug dogs [Re: sir tripsalot]
    #2126740 - 11/21/03 06:54 AM (14 years, 6 months ago)

> This could be good in a way, only if it is as good as a dog.

Not to mention that you can't train a machine to give false positives when you like.

> your tax dollars at work.

He is a grad student... hard to say if tax money went into this or not.

Just another spore in the wind.

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Trip'n Time

Registered: 11/17/02
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Re: Machine aims to replace drug dogs [Re: Seuss]
    #2129240 - 11/22/03 04:16 PM (14 years, 6 months ago)

Maybe not into making one but when the government wants to start using it where is the money to make them gonig to come from?

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