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Tongue electrode lets you taste flavor that isn't there

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.

Digital Taste Simulator
National University of Singapore

What if you could play, say, the game Cooking Mama and virtually taste the dishes you make? Or watch "Iron Chef" (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 re-creates flavors.

It works by sending tiny alternating currents and slight temperature changes into the tongue that fool it into "tasting" four flavors: 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 setup 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.

(Source: Crave Australia via New Scientist)