Three computer science students at Haifa’s Technion University may be about to rid the world of the trouble of trying to find a sweet and juicy watermelon with their new technological innovation.
The students developed an application which they say can figure out the quality of the fruit in a matter of seconds.
“One year ago, my mum sent me to the supermarket to buy a watermelon for the guests who were supposed to come to our house,” said one of the developers, Salah Abed Alehlim (23) from the Manda village in the Galilee. “I got to the shop, chose a watermelon and hit it as they taught us to do. If it sounds hollow it isn’t ready, if it sounds full then it means that it is sweet and tasty.”
After the sound test Salah returned home. “My mum opened the watermelon and it was embarrassing. The watermelon was hollow and not sweet. My mum shouted at me. I was so frustrated and disappointed that I decided to search for a scientific solution to this problem. The watermelon is one of the most important fruits, and one of the most special to us. Near the village we have one of the largest watermelon farms in the state.”
To help him in his quest to find the perfect watermelon, Alehim enlisted two of his friends to the project department: Adam Garah (22) and Ayman Sarha’an (23) from the Galilee.
“We started looking for researchers with the view to finding a correlation between the external properties of a watermelon and its internal qualities,” explained Sarha’an. “Agricultural engineers said that there was no connection between the two but biologists sad that, in fact, there were.”
“We met with the researchers in Oxford and in MIT and came to the conclusion that the same factors which influence the fruit’s peel also influence the surface of a watermelon. So there is a correlation between external factors - tone, stripe patterns and the size of the circle at the bottom of the watermelon - and its content,” said Sarha’an.
The students divided the work: Salah took on the task of connecting the application to the sensors which could determine the size and mass of the watermelon. Ayman was responsible for the image processing while Adam was charged with the task of analyzing six properties of the watermelon.
"Since we developed the application, we have conducted experiments on 30 watermelons to teach the system about the content of the fruit. Since then, the system knows how to recognize and predict accurately the taste of every watermelon,” Sarha’an said excitedly.
“We brought friends who, together, checked the taste of 30 watermelons and the results corresponded with the reality and everything works perfectly. Since we checked the system with other melons, the system is totally accurate,” he concluded.
The application gives a score between 1 - a terrible watermelon - and 5 - a divine watermelon.
Itai Davran, manager of the laboratory in which the project was developed said, “The cell phone goes round the watermelon, photographs it and examine specific parameters. In a short space of time, it provides results about the information that exist inside it. To the best of my understanding, the experiments were successful, and in my opinion this is the first time that a correlation has been identified between the shape and color, and the taste. I believe that this is probably going to succeed for other fruits too.”
The only problem is that the functioning of the device requires a separate device which, perhaps it would be worthwhile for shops to purchase. The question is, how many watermelon merchants will acquire the device in order to make our lives that much easier.