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China Develops Taste Testing Robots

Something a bit off in that last batch of take-out? Chinese manufacturers are creating taste-testing robots powered by artificial intelligence to guarantee tasty authenticity.

Manufacturers are profiting from machines that mimic the senses of human experts but not everybody is ready to let a device have the last word on Chinese cuisine.

Taste-testing robots powered by artificial intelligence are guaranteeing the quality and authenticity of some mass-produced Chinese food, according to a report submitted to China’s central government last month.

The council, formerly known as the State Bureau of Light Industry, said the foods being tasted by robots included cured pork belly, black rice vinegar, fine dried noodles, Chinese yellow wine and tea. It said the robots had boosted the manufacturers’ profits by more than 300 million yuan (US$44.5 million) since 2015.

The report said the tasting robot “increased productivity, improved product quality and stability, reduced production costs and provided technical support to promote traditional cuisine outside the country”.

The machines, which can learn on the job, are planted at various points along production lines to monitor the state of the food from raw ingredients to end product. They are equipped with electrical and optical sensors to simulate human eyes, noses and tongues, with a “brain” running a neural network algorithm, which looks for patterns in data.

(Via SCMP)

Of course, this development was predicted well in advance - about eighty years ago - by science fiction author Anthony Boucher. Consider the robot taste buds from his excellent 1943 short story Robinc.

"Half your time in cooking is wasted reaching around for what you need next. We can build in a lot of that stuff. For instance, one [mechanical] tentacle can be a registering thermometer. tapering to a fine point - stick it in a roast.... And best of all - why the nuisance of bringing food to the mouth to taste? Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle..."

(Read more about Boucher's robot taste buds)

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