A taste synthesizer that uses electronic stimulation of the taste buds, providing taste to the tongue: for some of us it may sound very futuristic, but Nimesha Ranasinghe and his team at the National University of Singapore have developed an electrode capable of producing the four major taste components: salt, sweet, sour and bitter.
The device was presented last month at the ACM Multimedia conference in Barcelona, Spain. It can transmit the taste through a silver electrode that makes contact with the tip of the tongue. Manipulating electric currents, it causes slight changes in temperature, which makes the taste buds on our tongue sense the different flavours. Ranasinghe is still working on adding umami, the savory taste, to the device as well.
Think of the people it could help. It might become possible to suppress or enhance our tasting capability, as well as to use the technology to help out people with taste disorders. The “Digital Lollipop,” a striking name given to the device by Ranasinghe, could also simulate sweet sensations, without the use of actual sugar. This would make the technology very interesting for all the diabetics round the world.
Imagine the possibilites for daily life. Virtual reality might become just a little more real if taste is added to the menu. You might be able to taste the meals of your favourite TV chef, or incorporate tasting experiences into online gaming.
And maybe, a little bit further down the road, a candybar smartphone capable of actually providing you with the taste of a candybar, will someday also become available. The future is sweet!
(hat tip: New Scientist)