Face Electrodes Let You Taste and Chew In Virtual Reality - Slashdot

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Face Electrodes Let You Taste and Chew In Virtual Reality (newscientist.com) 2

Posted by BeauHD on Saturday November 05, 2016 @09:34AM from the fine-dining dept.
walterbyrd quotes a report from New Scientist: Experiments with "virtual food" use electronics to emulate the taste and feel of the real thing, even when there's nothing in your mouth. This tech could add new sensory inputs to virtual reality or augment real-world dining experiences, especially for people with restricted diets or health issues that affect their ability to eat. Several projects have succeeded in tricking us into tasting things that aren't there. Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore has already experimented with a "digital lollipop" to emulate different tastes, and a spoon embedded with electrodes that amplify the salty, sour, or bitter flavor of the real food eaten off it. However, his experiments with electrical stimulation had less success simulating sweetness compared to the other tastes. But digitizing this taste could be particularly useful in, for example, helping people cut back on sugary food or drinks. So Ranasinghe and his colleague Ellen Yi-Luen Do started experimenting with thermal stimulation instead. Their new project, presented at the 2016 ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST) in Tokyo, uses changes in temperature to mimic the sensation of sweetness on the tongue. The user places the tip of their tongue on a square of thermoelectric elements that are rapidly heated or cooled, hijacking thermally sensitive neurons that normally contribute to the sensory code for taste. In an initial trial, it worked for about half of participants. Some also reported a sensation of spiciness when the device was warmer (around 35 degrees Celsius) and a minty taste when it was cooler (18 degrees Celsius). Ranasinghe and Do envisage such a system embedded in a glass or mug to make low-sugar drinks taste sweeter.

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