Scientists have developed artificial skin, artificial eyes, and are even in the progress of designing an artificial "brain" (of sorts) for the US military. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Glasgow have been working on an artificial tongue for the simple (and wholesome) purpose of whiskey tasting.
They describe their invention in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Nanoscale.
This isn't the world's first artificial tongue but it is the first single artificial tongue made with two types of nanoscale metal "tastebuds" – a feature that improves its taste-testing abilities and enables it to provide more information on the samples it tastes, and faster too.
"We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue – like us, it can’t identify the individual chemicals that make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures," lead author Alasdair Clark from the University of Glasgow's School of Engineering said in a statement.
So, how exactly does it work? It uses the optical properties of gold and aluminum. Sub-microscopic slices of the metals are woven together to form a checkerboard pattern. When they are submerged in a liquid, tiny differences in the ways the two metals absorb light enables them to differentiate between different types of whiskey.
The artfully arranged gold and aluminum slices are the artificial tastebuds in the artificial tongue, and are roughly 500 times smaller than their human counterparts.
Impressively, the device is able to "taste" differences between drinks with a greater than 99 percent accuracy. Not only can it tell you your Glenfiddich from your Glen Marncoch or your Laphroaig, but it can also identify differences in the same whiskey based on its age (i.e. has it been aged in a barrel for 12, 15 or 18 years?).
And although the study was based on whiskey tasting, the tongue could be used to taste pretty much any type of liquid you can think of. This could enable authorities to snuff out counterfeit alcohol, test the safety and quality of food, test toxins in public waterways, as well as improve security – "really any area where a portable, reusable method of tasting would be useful."
Or if you're one of those people who has a fear of being poisoned, it could open up a new world of delectable treats.