Tasty Invention

Keep your hands out of your food! Unless they’re. . . robot hands?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Taste is the sensation triggered by our taste buds when they recognize flavor molecules. Chocolate – yum! Kale – not so much. But what if science could come up with a ROBOTIC tongue?

Joe Wang from UC San Diego has formulated inks that detect sweet, sour, or spicy. The inks “taste” the flavor molecules – glucose, ascorbic acid, capsaicin – through a process called voltammetry. To identify “flavors,” voltammetry looks at how the molecules change electrical resistance.

And what did the researchers print their tasting inks onto? A glove! Which was operated with a robotic hand!

The team put the glove to work sticking its tongue fingers into food. They looked at the electrical resistance coming from the special inks. And? They found that they could differentiate curry powder from paprika… coffee from tea!

The researchers believe these tongue gloves will be essential kitchenwear for robot chefs.

Well, my mother taught me to never play with my food. But I suppose there’s no accounting for taste!