The ability to discern good wine from bad, name the specific brand from a tiny sip and recommend a complementary cheese would seem to be about as human a skill as there is.
In Japan, robots are doing it.
Researchers at NEC System Technologies and Mie University have designed a robot that can taste — an electromechanical sommelier able to identify dozens of different wines, cheeses and hors d’oeuvres.
This is indeed a cute gizmo: “When it has identified a wine, the robot speaks up in a childlike voice. It names the brand and adds a comment or two on the taste, such as whether it is a buttery chardonnay or a full-bodied shiraz, and what kind of foods might go well on the side.”
Fortunately for human sommeliers, the winebot still needs a little work. It can be programmed to identify only a few dozen wines at the moment. In addition, the chemical changes in wines that occur when it breathes can confuse the wine’s “signature”.