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Wasabi smoke alarm raises a stink in Japan

Deaf people can benefit from a smoke alarm that emits a strong odor of wasabi. The Japanese device has been shown to wake deaf sleepers within three minutes.

Air Water Safety Service

The Japanese are getting teary-eyed over a smoke alarm for deaf people that emits a strong odor of wasabi, according to a recent Nikkei Net article.

Instead of an ear-piercing wail, the device unleashes the chemical compound allyl isothiocyanate, which gives horseradish, mustard, and wasabi their bite. A red LED on the alarm also starts flashing when smoke is detected.

In tests on sleeping people with normal or no hearing, the device woke nearly all subjects up within two and a half minutes after the stench hit their nostrils. Further tests determined the ideal intensity of airborne wasabi to wake people up but not hurt their eyes in the process.

The alarm is about 8 inches long by 3 inches wide and works on a room that's roughly 50 square feet. It was launched in 2009 following a two-year development by Kobe-based fire extinguisher company Air Water Safety Service and Seems, a bioventure in Tokyo.

The companies haven't managed to sell too many units of the alarm, which costs around $560. A redesign may bring the price down to $225.

But interest in the smelly siren is growing, according to Nikkei. One hotel in Nagoya is offering it to hearing-impaired guests. The firms are also targeting noisy environments like karaoke parlors where crooners might drown out an alarm.

No word yet on whether they'll try selling to sushi restaurants.