A team at the National University of Singapore has created an electrode device that sits on the tip of your tongue and simulates the tastes of salty, sweet, bitter and sour.
What if you could play, say, Cooking Mama — and virtually taste the dishes that you make? Or watch Iron Chef (which is still the best cooking competition ever on TV) and taste the dishes alongside the judges?
Nimesha Ranasinghe and his team at the National University of Singapore have built what they call the Digital Taste Simulator — an electrode that sits on the tip of the user's tongue and recreates flavours.
It works by sending tiny alternating currents and slight temperature changes into the tongue, which fool it into "tasting" four flavours: sweet, salty, bitter and sour. "We have found noninvasive electrical and thermal stimulation of the tip of the tongue successfully generates the primary taste sensations," Ranasinghe said.
At the moment, the set-up is still in its early stages, quite large and awkward, but the team is redesigning it so that the electrode can stay in contact with the tongue even when the user's mouth is nearly closed. They are also working on simulating smell and texture — although, as you can probable imagine, this is rather more complicated.
The team is also working on something called the Digital Lollipop. It works along the same principles to deliver different taste sensations — perhaps sent from one user to another — and is currently undergoing testing to see how it affects different regions of the tongue.