Government Robots Will Decide if Your Thai Food Tastes Right

PHOTO: Pad Thai with seafood and peanuts is visible in this stock image.Geoff Peters/Getty Images
Pad Thai with seafood and peanuts is visible in this stock image.

Pad Thai dishes don’t always taste the same. But they could from today onward.

Thailand is unveiling two new robots that can evaluate whether Thai food around the world is made according to government-standardized recipes, according to a spokeswoman from the Thai National Innovation Agency (NIA), which was tasked by the Ministry of Science and Technology to promote Thai food.

"It is found that the flavors of Thai food in many standalone restaurants and in hotels abroad are deviated from the authentic ones," the NIA said in a written statement.

To resolve the issue, the agency developed equipment to measure and analyze flavors of Thai food.

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Dr. Krit Chongsrid, who developed the robots, told ABC News the biggest challenge was syncing the taste analysis to the smell analysis.

"There is a 5 to 10 percent error probability," Chongsrid said.

The first robot is called e-Delicious, according to a report provided by the NIA to ABC News.

The machine, equivalent to a human food critic, is composed of an electronic nose made with 16 gas sensors and an electronic tongue made to detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (meat or savory) flavors.

The second robot is called ESenS according to the same report. It’s a smart application on Android, the size of a printer, that uses micro-sensors to compare samples to an existing database of recipes.

It took Chongsrid's team about a year to develop the two robots. He told ABC News the team hoped to develop at least 100 or more.

So far, samples can be compared to 11 recipes approved by the Thai government and its “Thai Delicious Committee”.

The recipes include Tom Yum Kung, Pad Thai, Mussaman Curry and Golek Chicken Sauce, according to the NIA. The agency is currently working on standardizing 10 more recipes.

The NIA also launched an iPad and iPhone app called “Thai Delicious” for users to download recipes.

Many university laboratories and nanotechnology companies around the world have joined the race to develop "taste robots."

For example, Spanish researchers recently managed to distinguish between different varieties of beer using an “electronic tongue.” According to the journal Food Chemistry, the beer tasting technology is accurate in 82 percent of cases.

Similarly, in Denmark, scientists have inaugurated a nano-sensor that evaluates a wine's quality by measuring its astringency. They've called it "mini-mouth."

While Thailand’s goal to preserve its culinary reputation is understandable, questions remain on the government’s ability to market the new robots and make sure they are used properly -- or to get restaurants to use them at all.