Saturday, September 09, 2006

God bless the Japanese

Who needs a cure for cancer when we can build robots that can taste and identify dozens of different wines, cheeses and hors d’oeuvres?

Japanese researchers and scientists have built a wine-tasting robot!

From the story:

At the end of the robot’s left arm is an infrared spectrometer. When objects are placed up against the sensor, the robot fires off a beam of infrared light. The reflected light is then analyzed in real time to determine the object’s chemical composition.

“All foods have a unique fingerprint,” Shimazu said. “The robot uses that data to identify what it is inspecting right there on the spot.”

The winebot can be personalized to tell you which wines you'd like based on your current preferences. The drawback?

Of the thousands of wines on the market, the robot can be programmed to accurately identify only a few dozen at most. It also has more trouble with the task after the bottle has been opened and the wine begins to breathe and thus transform chemically.

I dunno. It's a cool concept with a pretty lousy execution. I mean, kudos to these researchers for going all out and trying to demystify the wine experience by breaking it down to just the science, but the relative uselessness coupled with the exorbitant price makes this little gadget mostly useless.

Plus, there's a pretty big margin of error:

When a reporter’s hand was placed against the robot’s taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.

Mmmm, bacon hands.


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