Robots Love Beer


Anyone who has ever watched Futurama already knows how much robots love beer. But that taste for delicious alcohol had to come from somewhere, right?

As things turn out, it comes from Barcelona, Spain, where scientists have developed the first ever beer-tasting electronic tongue.

It was those wacky fellas at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (which is an awesome name for a school, just sayin’) who first got it in their heads to build an electronic tongue capable of distinguishing between different types of beer. Here’s the basics, from a release just put out summing up the findings published in the journal Food Chemistry:

As Manel del Valle, the main author of the study, explains to SINC: “The concept of the electronic tongue consists in using a generic array of sensors, in other words with generic response to the various chemical compounds involved, which generate a varied spectrum of information with advanced tools for processing, pattern recognition and even artificial neural networks.”

In this case, the array of sensors was formed of 21 ion-selective electrodes, including some with response to cations (ammonium, sodium), others with response to anions (nitrate, chloride, etc.), as well as electrodes with generic (unspecified) response to the varieties considered.

The authors recorded the multidimensional response generated by the array of sensors and how this was influenced by the type of beer considered. An initial analysis enabled them to change coordinates to view the grouping better, although it was not effective for classifying the beers.

“Using more powerful tools – supervised learning – and linear discriminant analysis did enable us to distinguish between the main categories of beer we studied: Schwarzbier, lager, double malt, Pilsen, Alsatian and low-alcohol,” Del Valle continues, “and with a success rate of 81.9%.”

So basically, this robot tongue is more accurate than I am when it comes to distinguishing different kinds of beer (I’m a pro and I’m still not sure I could name a lager, a pilsner and an Alsatian correctly in a blind tasting). 82% accuracy? That’s impressive. And what’s more, good for the mad scientists at AU of B for talking someone into giving them funding for their robot kegger. That’s the kind of science I can really get behind, even if it pretty much guarantees that when the inevitable robot uprising comes, our terrible, steel-hearted overlords are not just going to be coming for our blood and spare parts, but for our liquor as well.

I’m going to start hoarding now. Just to be safe.

An Electric Tongue Can Identify Brands Of Beer [press release]


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