The age of robotic wine tasting has arrived. Does this represent a technological advancement for mankind, or are we descending into a gastronomic Matrix?
First, there was the beer-pouring robot, and now comes the news that researchers at NEC System Technologies and Japan’s Mie University have designed a robot that can “taste” wine, cheese, and other foods.
The device uses an infrared spectrometer to analyze the chemical composition of wine and make a conclusion about its flavor. Says USA Today:
When it has identified a wine, the robot speaks up in a childlike voice. It names the brand and adds a comment or two on the taste, such as whether it is a buttery chardonnay or a full-bodied shiraz, and what kind of foods might go well on the side.
Should wine critics and sommeliers fear the rise of an army of robots that have mastered winespeak? Paging Morpheus?
Well, don’t worry just yet. It’s only a prototype, and apparently there are some kinks to be worked out in the technology. As noted in the USA Today story, “When a reporter’s hand was placed against the robot’s taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.”
There you have it. Humans still have the upper hand over machines, at least when it comes to tasting…the media.