Virtual Reality Gets Tasty

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Virtual reality might look and sound great, but what about the other senses? Taste joins the likes of smell-o-vision in sensorial experimentation, through a simulator allowing users to sample food as it appears on the screen.

Taste synthesiserAs New Scientist reports the synthesiser reproduces 4 taste components (salt, sweet, sour, bitter) through a silver electrode touching the tip of the tongue. The electrode "fools" taste receptors through the combination of varying alternate current and slight temperature changes, both controlled via semiconductor elements.

"We have found noninvasive electrical and thermal stimulation of the tip of the tongue successfully generates the primary taste sensations," National University of Singapore researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe says.

Ranasinghe hopes the system will become more efficient in future redesigns, even allowing it to touch the tongue when the mouth is almost closed. The researchers also plan to add the 5th major taste component (savoury or "umami) and all-important smell and texture effects.

An interesting variant of the synthesiser is a "digital lollipop" giving users a continuous sweet hit but without the actual sugar. Also in the works is Taste over Internet Protocol (TOIP), a data format for the sending flavour data to the synthesiser.

The taste technology might find a few applications. These include games (with rewards based on different flavours) and even means of helping people to stop drinking too many sugary drinks.

Go Electrode Recreates All Four Tastes on Your Tongue (New Scientist)

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