The e-nose knows
- September 7, 2006 3:57 PM |
- By Quirks
OK, so it's not the robot butler we were hoping for, but Japanese researchers recently unveiled the latest gadget they hope will become a household item, the electronic sommelier. Not just restricted to wines, this small, green robot can also check out your hors d'ouevres and cheeses.
Designing sniffer robots is nothing new, the military and security industries are very interested in this kind of technology for hunting down bombs. Even NASA is busy building an electronic nose. It's not often you see one that's designed for home use, though.
Replicating the sense of smell isn't an easy trick. Linda Buck co-won a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work in the field. Yet when I've talked with her at Quirks & Quarks, she's told me that we still don't really understand how we're able to recognize more than 10,000 different smells, some of which only really differ depending on their context.
How is this Japanese robot able to accomplish something even NASA is having trouble with? If you're going to develop sniffing robots, wine isn't a bad place to start. There are plenty of volatile compounds in wine: connoisseurs know this, and that's why they pay so much attention to the "nose" of the wine. And scientists have turned their own equipment on the same subject. The key here is that the robot doesn't have to be able to identify the material as wine – it trusts the user to do that. It merely has to pick out the signature of the particular wine it's been offered and make a judgment call.
Will robots replace the traditional approach of picking up a glass, swirling and taking a decent sip? Probably not, but it could let you know if your wine's turned to vinegar. And it would make a great excuse to hold a wine tasting session.
All News blogs
Quirks and Quarks
- Chris Hadfield's fall from space
- The final segment of Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield's mission, the return to Earth on Monday evening, will be the most difficult of all. As he plunges into the atmosphere, he will transform from a free floating body to a heavy prisoner of gravity. Continue reading this post
- Glimmer of hope even as planet hits CO2 climate milestone
- A new record level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has been recorded at the Mauna Loa observatory on the island of Hawaii, the world's premier atmospheric monitoring station. Continue reading this post
- Celebrating 60 years of DNA
- A ceremony at Cambridge University in England this week unveiled a memorial to Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule. His co-author, Dr. James Watson, now 85, attended the ceremony for a discovery many consider to be as important as Darwin's theory of evolution and Einstein's theory of relativity. Continue reading this post