New 'chewing robot' helps develop softer food for the elderly
Local scientists recently developed a robot that can measure how tough different kinds of food are... by chewing them.
The data the robot collects are used to make food softer for elderly people who have a hard time chewing.
Cho Sung-min reports.
This robot was developed by researchers at the Korea Food Research Institute.
With teeth similar to those of people, it emulates the way the human jaw chews food,... and by calculating the force distributed across the teeth, it measures the chewiness of what's put into it.
Inside is a tongue and part that releases liquid... making it very similar to how our mouths work.
The robot collects scientific data on how much force the jaw needs to break food down depending on its size, texture and shape.
Researchers say that information can help make food more convenient for senior citizens who have a hard time with food that's chewy or tough.
"The information collected using pre-existing chewing machines... omitted variabilities and took into account the state of the teeth of elderly people. We are trying to extract more reliable data that could ultimately help make senior citizens more comfortable when eating."
The robot's main job is to chew food samples injected with a special protein said to make the food softer.
So far, researchers have tested dozens of foods, ranging from vegetables to meat products.
And the results prove not only that they can make any kind of food softer... but that they can control the softness as well.
"We are talking about a technology that manipulates the softness of food without changing their physical appearance. We can make any food softer down to one-tenth of its natural toughness."
Nearly half of all Koreans older than 65 have difficulty chewing, so experts say the robot has played an important role in developing and widening the variety of so-called "silver food," or food made for the elderly.