Soumac WOW blog – An AI-assisted e-tongue which can taste and identify liquids

Using their Watson AI technology, IBM has developed a portable e-tongue, equipped with special sensors that allow the tongue to taste and identify different liquids.

This isn’t the first time that IBM has successfully created artificial body parts – with their artificial brain proving a big hit – however, it’s thought the e-tongue is the first of its kind.

In this month’s WOW blog, Soumac explore the technology in further detail and its possible applications:

How the technology works

The handheld tongue uses pattern matching technology, augmented by machine learning, to work out the composition of a liquid. Using a combination of sensors and off-the-shelf electronics, the e-tongue is able to measure the voltage across electrodes to translate the data over to a cloud server – such as a mobile device. The server then uses a trained machine learning algorithm to compare the digital fingerprint just recorded to a database of known liquids to identify the substance.

The technology was on show recently at the 11th World Conference of Science Journalists in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the e-tongue successfully distinguished different brands of bottled water.

Possible applications

One of the most obvious applications for this technology is in the food & beverage industry, to help improve supply chain safety. Currently, once food and drinks are packaged, it becomes very difficult to verify that the product contains what it says on the label. However, with the Hypertaste e-tongue this could make the process a lot easier and remove the need for products to be tested in a lab. This could help minimise counterfeit products, as well as catch out suppliers who are using lower-quality products than stated on the label.

Further afield, IBM hope to develop the technology for use in the medical and life sciences industry. For example, the e-tongue may be used to sample a person’s urine to monitor factors such as lifestyle and nutrition. The technology could also be used in diagnostic and preventive medicine.

The chemical sensor could also be used in environmental monitoring, to check water quality in lakes, streams and other public places.

One of the big advantages of this technology is its speed. All in all, the process takes less than a minute, from measurement to identification of the liquid; which is much quicker than the traditional lab testing method.  What’s more, lab testing is expensive; and the Hypertaste e-tongue even removes extra costs, such as shipping.

This latest AI development from IBM continues to prove that AI has real potential in many diverse sectors and the buzz around it shows no signs of abating anytime soon. We’re looking forward to seeing what IBM develop next!