Researcher Creates Digital Device That Mimics Food Taste

A new device that is able to recreate all taste perceptions linked to food when placed​ into your mouth has been developed. The machine depends on electrolytes implanted into five gels that control the depth of five fundamental flavors: sour, sweet, bitter, salty, and umami.

The relatively lesser-known term umami, coming from the Japanese word for a pleasant savory taste, was included in the basic tastes group in 1990. The device was developed by Homei Miyashita, a researcher at the Meiji University.

How Does the Device Work

The process used by the device employs electrophoresis, which is the activity of microscopic particles activated by an electric charge. When the device featuring five tubes touches the tongue, the subject is able to sense all five taste perceptions, but when differently-measured electrical charges are employed, some tastes can be increased, and others receded.

Miyashita​ compared the control of taste sensation to our perceptions of images on video monitors. Our eyes view images on the screen, but actually, they are only a series of continuously pulsating red, green, and blue pixels of different combinations and intensities.

“Like an optical display that uses lights of three basic colors to produce arbitrary colors,” Miyashita said in his paper that was published on the Meiji University website, “this display can synthesize and distribute arbitrary tastes together with the data acquired by taste sensors.”

It Can be Used as a Tool

The device was termed Norimaki Synthesizer, with Norimaki being – in case you’re not familiar with them – a type of seaweed that’s usually wrapped around sushi. The term was used after Miyashita enhanced the subject’s experience by wrapping the synthesizer in dried seaweed as he increased the salt and sour tastes to imitate the sensation of eating sushi.

The synthesizer, “has allowed users to experience the flavor of everything from gummy candy to sushi without having to place a single item of food in their mouths,” according to Miyashita​.

The concept assures great pleasure to passengers on no-frills flights, but besides its entertainment value, it may end up being a priceless tool for those who struggle to lose weight. Others, for instance, such as those with hypertension who have to control salt intake, might mix real food while using the Norimaki Synthesizer.

Miyashita​ said that his interest was awakened by earlier research efforts of Hiromi Nakamura, who in 2011 managed to accomplish ‘augmented gustation’ by transmitting electrical charges through chopsticks, forks, and straws in order to create tastes people couldn’t sense with their tongues alone.

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