Mm ... that ... is ... a ... fine ... vintage ...

OK, so this guy at the right isn't the latest in high-tech wine tasting technology. He's actually Robby the Robot from the "Lost In Space" TV series and films.

However, this nondescript yellow thing below actually is the aforementioned electronic tongue.

It's a hand-held device created by scientists at the Barcelona Institute of Microelectronics in Spain, who say it will tell you the grape variety and vintage at the press of a button.

It's not just a party gimmick. The device actually was devised for quality control in the field. It is made of six sensors which detect substances characteristic of specific wine varieties, such things as alcohol, sugar and acid. That helps determine the ages and varieties of the wines.

Cecilia Jiménez-Jorquera, one of the inventors, told Science Daily, "The device could be used to detect frauds committed regarding the vintage year of the wine, or the grape varieties used."

Electronic tasters are not confined to the wine industry. British researchers at the University of Warwick have created an electronic tongue with chemical membranes that eventually could help keep people safe from spoiled or contaminated food, water and drugs. It is capable of detecting the four basic tastes: sour, sweet, salt and bitter.

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