how far will robots go? There seem to be no limits. They can even learn from tastes. Is it true? The robot that can taste food says yes. Researchers at Cambridge University trained a robot chef.
It can assess the saltiness of a dish at different stages of the chewing process. Thus, it mimics a similar process in humans. Its results could be useful in the development of automated food preparation.
Signals to the brain
As we chewed our food, we noticed a change in texture and flavor. The robot chef tasted nine different variations of a simple dish of scrambled eggs and tomatoes. And it produced “flavor maps” of the different dishes. This “taste as you go” approach improved the robot’s ability to assess the saltiness of the dish. The results are reported in the journal Frontiers in Robotics & AI.
Taste perception is a complex process in humans that has evolved over millions of years. The appearance, smell, texture, and temperature of food affect how we perceive taste. Signals from taste receptors are transmitted to the brain. Once our brains are aware of the taste, we decide whether we like it.
Taste is also a very individual thing. A good cook can balance the various flavors within a dish. “Most home cooks will be familiar with the concept. They check a dish throughout the process to verify if it’s just right.” Grzegorz Sochacki, of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, said in a statement. “And for the robots? It’s important that they can ‘taste’ what they are cooking.”
Admittedly, it is a proof of concept. The robot that can taste food mimics the processes of chewing and tasting. Eventually they will be able to produce food that humans will enjoy.
“When a robot is learning to cook, it needs indications of how well it did,” Abdulali said. “We want robots to understand the concept of flavor. It will make them better cooks. In our experiment, the robot can ‘see’ the difference in the food as it chews it.”