“Danger Will Robinson, that Merlot is corked!”
The robot was initially designed to identify a food and recognise its ingredients. It can estimate the major components, such as sugar and fat, found in food, identify the presence of ingredients, and estimate the quantities of the identified components.
It “tastes” using infrared spectroscopic technology, transmitting infrared rays at the food and measuring the degree of absorption of certain wavelengths, known as the absorbance spectrum. The spectra of previously analysed foodstuffs are stored in the robot’s memory for comparison.
Developing the robot’s wine tasting talents presented a new challenge. In terms of absorbance spectra, the differences between different types of wine are much smaller than those between different types of foods. The discrimination process focuses on the automatic extracted point of maximum difference between the spectra of the wines being tasted.
The researchers improved the resolution by giving the infrared sensor a wider spectrum that covers the range from near-infrared rays to the mid-infrared spectrum to discriminate more types of wine.
The latest incarnation of the robot now asks questions to determine a customer’s wine preferences. Like a human sommelier, the robot asks a minimum number of questions in order to narrow down the choices to the most suitable wines.
NEC System Technologies believe its research into imitating human senses will lead to technology that supports the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases and help in the treatments for those diseases through dietary therapy and medical technology.