Here's a job title that you probably didn't know existed: Apple Biter. Oh sure, the official term is probably something like "Fruit Evaluation Specialist," but if you spend your days chomping into apples to assess their taste and crispness, you're really an Apple Biter. While using panels of such people is a common method of evaluating the quality of apple crops, it can be compromised when those people start to get fatigued. There's also the not-insignificant fact that panel members could differ in what they consider to be the optimal level of crispness. That's why Washington State University is looking into using a computerized penetrometer to handle part of the Apple Biters' duties.

This isn't the first time that a machine has been enlisted to test apples. Standard penetrometers and acoustic resonance technology are already used to measure a fruit's hardness, firmness and maturity. The new computerized penetrometer, known as the Mohr Digi-Test, is unique in being able to also gauge crispness.

When the researchers had the machine test 16 varieties of apples, then compared its results against those arrived at by a panel of experts sampling the same apples, there was a "strong correlation" between the two data sets.

Apple Biters needn't worry about the Digi-Test putting then out of a job just yet, as it still isn't able to judge the taste of fruit. Due to other recent technological innovations, however, human Strawberry Pickers and Orange Sorters may be on their way to obsolescence.

A paper on the Washington State research was recently posted in the American Society for Horticultural Science's HortTechnology electronic journal.