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Taste-testing robots in Thailand to ensure local restaurants are doing country proud
by Brooks Hays
Bangkok (UPI) Sep 30, 2014

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

To curb the proliferation of knockoff versions of pad Thai, green chicken curry and Thai fried rice, Thailand officials have enlisted the help of taste-testing robots.

The "e-delicious" robots -- of which there are currently two -- use a series of a sensors and microchips to identify the chemical makeup of a sample of food, a bite placed in their mouths. The sensors on the tongue can apparently pick out the flavor components of a well-balanced Thai dish -- sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. The robots also have a nose with 16 gas sensors to ensure would-be Thai food also smells right.

Once the the machines ascertain the chemical profile of the sample, they then compare their readings to the chemical signature of the ideal version of that dish. The ideal version is, of course, preprogrammed into the robot's computer system -- predetermined by humans and their human taste buds.

If a local restaurant's tom yam kung (spicy shrimp soup) is sufficiently Thai, it will receive a government seal of approval. The people of Thailand are passionate about their food, but their suspicion about inauthentic Thai seems mostly directed at restaurants outside the border.

"There are many Thai restaurants all around the world that are not owned by Thai people," Supachai Lorlowhakarn, an adviser to the Thai government's National Innovation Agency, told The New York Times. "They are owned by Vietnam or Myanmar, or maybe even Italian or French."

The two robotic food snobs are the product of the Thai Delicious program, funded by the National Innovation Agency. It was first conceived by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's former prime minister who was outed in a military coup this summer. The new government has maintained the program, and is set to host a dinner Tuesday in Bangkok, where Thai chefs and food experts will get to witness the robots' discerning palates firsthand.


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