There are many theories that attempt to explain the uncanny valley, which is a range of humanoid realness that is very disconcerting to people. When something looks almost human, we find it disturbing. That often applies to robots with faces — or robots that are faces, as is the case with the TAST-E robot that has a sense of taste and smell.
The TAST-E robot created by M. Bindhammer looks a bit like a human face, sans skin. Servo motors let it pan and tilt, flap its lips, move its unsettlingly realistic eyeballs, and waggle its eyebrows. It can even speak thanks to a Parallax Emic 2 text-to-speech module connected to an Arduino Mega 2560 board.
But TAST-E is most intriguing because of its sense of taste and smell, which let it identify specific compounds and molecules.
Our own tongues can only detect five distinct tastes: saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and umami (savoriness). TAST-E can do the same by recognizing the compounds that stimulate those receptors on our tongues. It does so with colorimeters, which detect the color produced when certain reagents mix with those compounds. This is similar to how a woman might look for a blue or pink line on a pregnancy test. TASTE-E has custom colorimeters that look for the reagent colors associated with those taste compounds.
TASTE-E’s sense of smell is a bit more straightforward, but also less analogous to human smell. Its electronic nose uses a Grove gas sensor breakout with four modules: a GM-102B for NO2, a GM-302B for ethanol, a GM-502B for VOCs, and a GM-702B for CO/H2. Those let it analyze the concentration of those compounds in an air sample.
It isn’t clear what M. Bindhammer intends for TAST-E, but this robot is as impressive as it is chilling.
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