Japanse ontwikkelaars van NEC hebben een wijnproefrobot ontwikkeld. Hij is bedoelt voor winkelketens en douanes, om te bepalen of de druiven die op het label staan er inderdaad in zitten.
De robot kan 30 druiven onderscheiden. Hij is ongeveer zo groot als 6 liter wijn en heeft maar 5 mililiter nodig om de wijn te kunnen analyseren in 30 seconden.
Mwa, leuke gadget, maar voorlopig komtie bij mij het huis niet in. Een foto van het ding heb ik nog niet kunnen vinden.
A robotic wine taster, capable of distinguishing between 30 different varieties or blends of grape, has been developed by engineers in Japan.
The idea is to automate wine analysis so that retailers and customs officials can easily check that a wine is indeed what its label declares.
The wine-bot was developed by scientists from NEC’s System Technologies laboratory and Mie University, both in Japan. It is about twice the size of a 3-litre wine box and consists of a microcomputer and an optical sensing instrument.
For analysis, a 5 millilitre sample of wine is poured into a tray in front of the machine. Light emitting diodes then fire infrared light at the sample and the reflected light is sensed by an array of photodiodes.
By identifying the wavelengths of infrared light that have been absorbed by the sample, NEC says the wine-bot can correctly identify the unique organic components of 30 popular wines within 30 seconds.
Because the combinations of these components are unique to certain wine-making regions, NEC says the wine-bot can even tell where the wine came from. The company promises to extend the number of wines the device can recognise before it is commercialised, but has not revealed when this will happen.
John Corbet-Milward, head of technical and international affairs at the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association, says deliberate mislabelling of wine is a serious problem.
"There always has been such fraud going on," the told New Scientist. "If there has been a bad grape-growing year, for instance, it’s quite tempting for people to make up a blend of wines that’s difficult to spot."
Currently, fraud detection is performed through human tasting and careful analysis of a vineyard’s records. "Any new machine that can identify wine fraud is potentially very interesting if it can speed up detection processes and reduce costs," Corbet-Milward adds.
But he also notes that a wine-bot would need to be capable of distinguishing between more than 30 flavours of wine to be truly useful. This is because the global wine market includes thousands of wine varieties and blends. "The acid test would be to test a machine against a team of qualified tasters," Corbet-Milward says.
He is not alone in having reservations. "There have been many attempts to do this but the calibration that is involved is truly enormous," says Geoff Taylor, managing director of Corkwise, a company that analyses wine to assess its quality.
"You have to teach the sensor all the parameters of all varieties and blends of wine. Then you have to include all the subtle differences caused by the use of different yeasts and maturation environments," Taylor adds. "It’s a massively complex picture."
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