Future computer system could be your personal chef

Story highlights

  • IBM is developing computer system to analyze food based on molecules
  • The system could potentially create personalized, healthy recipes
  • "At the end of the day, taste is about chemistry," an IBM innovation expert says
File this under the "wouldn't it be cool if ...?" category.
IBM is developing a computer system that could theoretically customize healthy recipes based on your personal taste buds. An outline of the project was presented as part of the company's annual 5 in 5 list -- five inventions that could change the world in five years.
"At the end of the day, taste is about chemistry," Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation at IBM, told Fast Company.
So how would it work?
"The system analyzes foods in terms of how chemical compounds interact with each other, the number of atoms in each compound, and the bonding structure and shapes of compounds," wrote IBM research scientist Lav Varshney.
"Coupled with psychophysical data and models on which chemicals produce perceptions of pleasantness, familiarity and enjoyment, the end result is a unique recipe, using combinations of ingredients that are scientifically flavorful."
Let's rephrase.
Our brains determine a food's flavor by how chemicals in the food react with our nose sensors and taste buds. IBM's system would break down the chemical components of each meal, then collect taste data based on your feedback. It would then use that information to create recipes that would appeal to you on a molecular level.
Basically, "in five years, a computer system will know what I want to eat better than I do," Varshney said.
Varshney and his team hope that by optimizing flavor, they will be able to reduce health issues related to nutrition. A person could program the computer to personalized taste (hold the mushrooms!) and medical necessities (low sodium, please).
"The best recipes will start with the right molecules," Varshney said.