A new artificial mouth will allow robots to snack on our tasty human flesh. French scientists have developed a way for robots to simulate the act of eating and tasting, using pointy artificial teeth combined with the proper chemical and environmental conditions found inside a mouth, including fake saliva. What's the use of such a device?
If you want to analyze taste, you can't just perform a chemical analysis of the food. Taste as experienced by humans includes the physical changes food undergoes as it is chewed (increasing surface area), chemical reactions with enzymes in our saliva, and volatile compounds that reach our olfactory receptors. This new artificial mouth is an attempt to take all these factors into account and create a situation very similar to what happens to food in a human mouth.
Why? It could be a first step toward codifying taste, allowing food scientists to test and create flavors in a laboratory kitchen without the time and effort of human taste tests. At some point, we might be entering flavor codes into the machinery at food production plants. Can Trek-style food replicators be far behind? Of more immediate concern is food safety. An artificial mouth can test the food supply for problems that might not show up until the food is chewed, although following that idea to its logical conclusion would seem to suggest a need for an artificial stomach as well.
Hungry robots. Yeah, that's not scary at all. Image by: American Chemical Society.
Effect of Apple Particle State on the Release of Volatile Compounds in a New Artificial Mouth Device. [American Chemical Society]