science

'Lickable screen' uses gels to simulate any flavor without users placing food in their mouth 


Bizarre ‘lickable screen’ uses gels to simulate any flavor from sushi to gummy candy without users placing a single piece of food in their mouth

  • A ‘lickable screen’ device simulates flavors when placed on the tongue
  • It holds tubes of gels that taste like the five flavors distinguished by the tongue  
  • Electrical charges are released that can be increased or lowered 
  • The voltages allow users to customize a specific taste in their mouth

A ‘lickable screen’ has been developed which can trick users into believing they are eating anything from sushi to gummy candies without them placing a single piece of food in their mouth.

Called the Norimaki Synthesizer, it uses five gels made of electrolytes that correspond with the five tastes a tongue can distinguish – salt, acidic, bitter, sweet and umami, or savory.

Users place the end of the device on their tongue and harmless electrical charges are released that can be increased or lowered to simulate a specific taste.

The team suggests the technology could be used to enjoy a virtual meal without dealing with the mess or may prove to be a weight management tool.

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Users place the end of the device on their tongue and harmless electrical charges are released that can be increased or lowered to simulate a specific taste

Users place the end of the device on their tongue and harmless electrical charges are released that can be increased or lowered to simulate a specific taste 

The Norimaki Synthesizer was developed by a team at Meiji University in Japan, which started out by comparing the manipulation of taste perception to how we perceive images on a monitor. TechXplore reports.

When we view an image on a monitor, they see things in a series of pulsating red, green and blue pixels of different combinations and intensities.

Homei Miyashita, the creator of the Norimaki Synthesizer, wrote in a research paper: ‘Like an optical display that uses lights of three basic colors to produce arbitrary colors.’

‘This display can synthesize and distribute arbitrary tastes together with the data acquired by taste sensors.’

A lickable screen is designed to trick users into believing they are eating anything from sushi to gummy candies, without them placing a single piece of food in their mouth

A lickable screen is designed to trick users into believing they are eating anything from sushi to gummy candies, without them placing a single piece of food in their mouth

Norimaki Synthesizer uses five gels made of electrolytes that correspond with the five tastes a tongue can distinguish – salt, acidic, bitter, sweet and umami, or savory

Norimaki Synthesizer uses five gels made of electrolytes that correspond with the five tastes a tongue can distinguish – salt, acidic, bitter, sweet and umami, or savory

Miyashita and his team use dissolved electrolytes in a small amount of water to create a highly concentrated solution.

Agar, a vegetable-based gelatin, was then added to the mixture and inserted into a tube where it would form into a gel.

Wire electrodes, which are wrapped in copper foil were placed at the end of each of the five tubes.

‘The copper foil wrapping is an anode, and the Pt wire in each gel is a cathode, which together with the human body form an electrical circuit,’ reads the paper.

‘When an electric potential is applied, therefore, the cations in the gel move to the cathode side and away from the tongue, so that the flavor is tasted weakly.’

The team used dissolved electrolytes in a small amount of water to create a highly concentrated solution (bottom). Agar, a vegetable-based gelatin, was then added to the mixture and inserted into a tube where it would form into a gel (top)

The team used dissolved electrolytes in a small amount of water to create a highly concentrated solution (bottom). Agar, a vegetable-based gelatin, was then added to the mixture and inserted into a tube where it would form into a gel (top)

Wire electrodes, which are wrapped in copper foil were placed at the end of each of the five tubes

Wire electrodes, which are wrapped in copper foil were placed at the end of each of the five tubes

Miyashita explained that by changing the charges, it is possible to transition between tastes ‘for example, by presenting a sweet taste like gummy candy after presenting a taste of sushi that was salty and sour.’

‘When we wrapped the device in dried seaweed, presenting taste of salty and sour with seaweed scent causes illusion of actually eating sushi.’

‘In addition, we succeeded in achieving different taste formulations by using sliders to adjust the resistance values. After 30 minutes of continuous use, none of the gels lost taste.’

The Norimaki Synthesizer is aimed at letting people in certain scenarios enjoy a tasty meal without the fuss or helping those attempting to lose weight, still indulge on their favorite foods without the guilt.



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