Researchers from the National University of Singapore have just invented a way to digitally send the taste and look of your lemonade to a plain tumbler of water to someone else online. Built upon a system of electrodes and sensors, the team used color and pH sensors to capture the lemonade’s citrusy yellow color as well as its acidity, and then transmitted the data to the electrodes surrounding the plain water. LED lights would then mimic the color and hue of the lemonade, and the drinker’s taste buds were stimulated with electricity from the electrodes to mimic the flavor of lemonade.
The team behind the invention says that the concept behind it is simply to allow users to share sensory experiences online, even when they’re miles apart. “People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media—what if you could upload the taste as well? That’s the ultimate goal,” explains Nimesha Ranasinghe from the research team.
Source: Youtube, New Scientist
They tested out the accuracy of the digital lemonade tumbler with 13 taste testers who had no clue whether the lemonade was real or not. They first played around with several different LED colors for the lemonade, cloudy white, green, and yellow. The volunteers had to rest their tongues on the tumbler’s rim while they drank it (which would allow them to get the full effect of the electrical stimulation from the electrodes). Once they were done, they rated each one based on how sour it looked and how sour it tasted.
The results shown that on average, the taste testers rated that the real lemonade was still more sour than the digital lemonade. However, they did think that the digital lemonade with a cloudy white colored LEDs was more sour based on color alone. The researchers acknowledged that if they wanted to truly replicate the full taste and experience of real lemonade to their virtual lemonade tumbler, they had to take into account its smell as well. “We’re working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste and color all covered. We want to be able to create any drink,” adds Ranangsinghe.
Social media sharing isn’t the only possible application for this digital tumbler. Since these virtual drinks are basically just plain water with electrodes to fool you into thinking it tastes like something else, virtual drinks could help us enjoy sugary drinks without the risk of raising our blood sugar or damaging our teeth. We can even taste alcoholic drinks without the alcohol and intoxication. The possibilities for this technology are huge, and sharing our experiences via social media is only one of them.