Finally, a robot taste-tester

French scientists have created the first-ever mechanical mouth that mimics the first steps of digestion, chewing up an apple to create the same mushy pulp a human mouth would. While some artificial mouths already exist—to test soft foods or sets of teeth, for example—this invention is the first to actually recreate what happens when we eat solid food. New Scientist suggests this could be a first step towards “a robotic taste-tester designed to improve food quality and our understanding of flavour.”

When we chew food, the volatile compounds it contains travel around the mouth and into the nose, creating flavour. Depending on how a hard food is consumed—whether it’s crushed, pulped or liquified—different tastes are created. This mouth will be a helpful tool in understanding that, as it can actually mimic the first steps of digestion (chewing, saliva release and food breakdown).

So what does it look like? According to New Scientist, the mouth is about five times the size of a human mouth, and is kept at a temperature of 37 degrees by electrical element. Food is placed on a “floor” inside the mouth, and “teeth” then move up and down to chew. Artificial saliva is also piped into the chamber, and helium flows in to reproduce the effects of breathing.

artificial mouth

I wonder if they’ll try hooking it up to the world’s first artificial stomach?

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