Robotic Beer Connoisseur

No, that title is not a joke or a metaphor! Read the post below or click on this link to see the article on Science Daily and find out!

Beer is the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drink in the world. What if you wanted to distinguish between different varieties without using your own tongue… but an electric one!

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona have managed to distinguish between different varieties of beer using an electric tongue with an 82% accuracy.

Manel del Valle, the main author of the study, explains: “The concept of the electronic tongue consists in using a generic array of sensors, in other words with generic response to the various chemical compounds involved, which generate a varied spectrum of information with advanced tools for processing, pattern recognition and even artificial neural networks.”

21 ion-selective electrodes form the array of sensors, including some that respond to cations like ammonium and sodium and others that respond to anions like nitrate and chloride. There are also electrodes with generic response to the varieties considered. (As we learned in class, cations are positive ions and anions are negative. I remember by thinking about how cats are cute and give me positive thoughts, while anion looks like a misspelling of onion, which gives me negative thoughts.)

The system does not recognize brands for which it was not “trained” for, such as beer and soft drink mixes.

“This application could be considered a sensor by software, as the ethanol present does not respond directly to the sensors used, which only respond to the ions present in the solution,” outlines the researcher.

These tools could one day be used in robots to give them a sense of taste. With touch sensors (you know you take your phone’s touchscreen for granted!), audio sensors that can distinguish from different sounds and commands (I love you, Siri!), motion sensors on our bathroom sinks, visual detection software that can distinguish faces and text and symbols, and now electric tongues… It’s almost scary how human robots may one day be, with all of our senses and more!


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