September 8, 2006 The evolution of information technology that imitates the five human senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste is important in the advancement of a ubiquitous society. Undoubtedly one of the leaders in this area is NEC System Technologies which continues to push robotic development as can be seen from these stories (here, here and here) on its technologies, all of which seem to be able to be shoehorned into the tiny PaPeRo form factor. More recently, the research has moved from areas such as personality, social skills, companionship and English-Japanese language translation to technologies that support the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases through dietary therapy. Last year we saw Papero transformed into a “health food adviser robot” which analysed food using infrared spectrum analysis and did so WITHOUT opening the packet. Not only did it report on the fat and sugar content, the robot actually identifies several types of cheese (Edam, Gouda, Camembert, etc.), meat products (ham, bacon), and bread (pain de mie, baguette, croissant,). This year they set out to build a robot that could differentiate between different types of wine, a far more exacting task using the same technology. The new wine-tasting robot can now discriminate between wine types but the sensor is much larger, needs to touch the surface of the wine and must be cleaned for each tasting.
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