Researchers at the National University of Singapore created a spoon embedded with electrodes that can amplify the salty, sour, or bitter flavor of real food, while a later project used thermal stimulation to mimic the sensation of sweetness.
Users place the tip of their tongue on a patch of thermoelectric elements that are rapidly heated or cooled, tricking the thermally sensitive neurons that contribute to the sensation of taste.
A separate team from the University of Tokyo produced a system that can emulate the dining experience by focusing on the texture and consistency of different foods. Electrodes are placed on the jaw's masseter muscle to replicate sensations of stiffness or chewiness as a user bites down. To give the virtual food a harder texture, the muscle is stimulated with a higher frequency, whereas longer electric pulses create an elastic consistency.
Researchers plan to develop the system further by targeting additional muscles in the jaw.
The University of Tokyo's Arinobu Niijima says taste and texture technologies could be combined to create a multisensory dining experience for people with dietary restrictions. "We wish to help them to satisfy their appetite and enjoy their daily life," Niijima says.
From New Scientist
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