Google to combat insect-borne diseases with new tech, old books

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San Francisco, Dec 13 (IANS) As hundreds of millions of people are affected by insect-borne diseases every year, Google is developing a new technology to combat such diseases using decades-old datasets mined by Google Books.

“A team at Google Brain is using decades-old datasets mined by Google Books — along with a newly developed sensory map for odour — to combat this major global health issue,” Google said in a blogpost.

“This is possible because the team recently discovered that a mosquito’s sense of smell is not so different from ours,” it added.

The tech giant mentioned that climate change has led to an expansion of insects, including ticks and mosquitoes, which can lead to dengue fever, lyme disease, and malaria outbreaks.

“My team is focused on giving computers a sense of smell. As we reviewed predictions of the neural networks we trained to predict what molecules smell like to people, we found that they were also useful to predict how the ‘smell parts’ of the brains of insects respond to the same molecules,” explains Alex Wiltschko, Former Google Brain researcher, and now Entrepreneur in Residence at Google Ventures.

Researchers at Google Brain realised that if they could train computers to recognise the odours that repel mosquitoes, those computers could help predict safe, inexpensive, and effective repellents to halt the spread of the insect-borne disease.

To develop this technology, the team identified relevant research completed by the US Department of Agriculture during World War II.

“We learned about a dataset where they tested thousands of repellents — much more than the 20 we had,” said Alex.



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