Electronic Tongues Are The Beer Snobs Of The Future | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Electronic Tongues Are The Beer Snobs Of The Future

If beer is the new wine, robots are the new beer snobs. Well, sort of.

Researchers in Barcelona have developed an electronic tongue that really knows the difference between a pilsner and a bock.

For now, it looks less like a slick, futuristic robot and more like a big of clump sensors. It's still a prototype, but its creators say it could some day replace human taste testers.

And in a study published in the journal Food Chemistry, the researchers found that the robo-taste tester can distinguish between different types of beer with 82 percent accuracy.

Manel del Valle, one of the study's authors and a roboticist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, says that food and beverage manufactures could use the technology for quality control.

"The food industry needs to test lots of their products — and this is usually done by an expert," del Valle tells The Salt. "But if you transfer this expertise to a robot, you can produce at night, you can produce on the weekends." And manufacturers won't have to worry about having a taste tester on hand at all times.

So it seems these robo beer buffs are more likely to be sampling Bud Lights someday than craft brews.

The electronic tongue works by using its array of sensors to identify the chemical components in a solution, del Valle says. It then cross-checks what it finds with what it already knows about different beers.

The robot is best at discerning tastes it has already been trained to look for. For the purposes of their study, del Valle says, the researchers taught the tongue how to distinguish among five distinct types of beers. So when they had it taste a shandy — a drink that is traditionally a blend of beer and lemonade, ginger ale or citrus soda — the electronic tongue knew that something was different.

Del Valle says the next step is to fine-tune their data processing tools so the tongue can taste with even more accuracy.

For now, Del Valle says that he and his colleagues are tailoring their creation to the beverage industry, but the robots could be tweaked to serve as taste testers for pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers as well. He's also working with forensic scientists, using the robot to test of things like gunshot residue.

But personally, we're most looking forward to having robot drinking buddies.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

No Small Feat: The NBA's Shortest Player Never Gave Up

At 5 foot 3, Muggsy Bogues holds the record as shortest player in NBA history. Criticism of his height started on the basketball courts of the Baltimore projects, and continued well into his career.
NPR

Tracing A Gin-Soaked Trail In London

Around the world, new gin distilleries are popping up like mushrooms after a rain. NPR traces the boom to its historic roots in London, which once had 250 distilleries within the city limits alone.
NPR

Ranting And Throwing Papers: An Angry Candidate Runs For Congress

State Rep. Mike Bost's rants on the Illinois House floor are the stuff viral dreams are made of. Bost says he has good reason to be upset, and wants voters to share his anger.
NPR

Israel's Solar-Powered 'Trees': For Smartphones And Community

The man-made trees are designed to create a public space where people can gather and re-charge a battery — their own and their smartphone's.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.