First, there was company that wants you to send smell and now, researchers over at Meiji University (Homei Miyashita) wants you to taste what you see on screen. In a project called Norimaki Synthesizer (Taste Display), a lickable device interprets the taste on screen, so you could taste the taste.
It is like a taste simulator of sort, but the goal here is not to let you taste tantalizing delicacy your friends posted on Facebook. At least, not yet. It is a research project that attempts to emulate taste by basing on the concept of tricking the eyes into seeing something that does not exist.
Here are the technical description of what Norimaki Synthesizer is about:
“This study describes the production of a novel taste display which uses ion electrophoresis in five gels containing electrolytes that supply controlled amounts of each of the five basic tastes to apply an arbitrary taste to the user’s tongue, analogous to optical displays that produce arbitrary colors from lights of three basic colors. When applied to the tongue with no voltage, the user can taste all five tastes…
However, when an electric potential is applied, the cations in the gel move to the cathode side and away from the tongue, so that the flavor is tasted weakly. In this way, we have developed a taste display that reproduces an arbitrary taste by individually suppressing the sensation of each of the five basic tastes (like subtractive synthesis.) Our study differs from previous work in that it uses an electric current for electrophoresis rather than electrically stimulating the tongue, and it does not involve ingestion of a solution to deliver the taste.”
Altogether, there are five gels that simulate salty, acidic, bitter, sweet, and umami. The last one there is also known as the savory taste and a critical element to our enjoyment of food.
Depending the flavor of the food (hopefully, it is food that you are trying to taste!), the device will excrete the right amount of gel(s) accordingly to simulate the taste. In other words, if a food has multiple flavor like sweet and salty, but leans more to salty, then more of the salt gel will be introduces.
There’s no telling how accurate the experience is with this device. Whatever it is, you know one of the things future has for us is taste simulation.
Images: Meiji University.