As crazy as it sounds, we can technically already "taste" the Internet; in the near future, this information will be sent directly to our brains...but let's start by discovering some currently available projects you should know about.
Before we begin, please note that this article is not about UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart, Deliveroo, Lieferando, Wolt or any other food delivery company.
In previous articles from this Internet of Senses (IOS) series, we covered Smell and Touch; this week I'd like to give you a Taste of how the IOS will soon disrupt the way we experience Flavors.
Back in March 2017, during the Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction in Japan, a group of researchers presented how sensors and electrodes could digitally transmit the basic color and sourness of a glass of lemonade to a tumbler of water, making it look and taste like a different drink.
“People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media – what if you could upload the taste as well? That’s the ultimate goal,” said Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore.
Several months later, the first Vocktail prototype was presented by scientists from Japan's Keio University and the National University of Singapore's Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments (CUTE), enabling anyone to taste beverages just with three micro air-pumps connected to three scent cartridges and a device that was coupled with a mobile app via Bluetooth - all without physically mixing beverages and ingredients. With the Vocktail, users can already create customized virtual flavors by remotely configuring the taste, smell, and color stimuli. Sending these combinations remotely is a very easy use-case.
If you're interested in exploring this topic further, you could start by picking up Adrian David Cheok's book, Virtual Taste and Smell Technologies for Multisensory Internet and Virtual Reality. While you're waiting for his book to arrive, you can check out some of Adrian David Cheok's YouTube videos where he presents the so-called “Digital Lollypop" which is basically a chip that can electrically and thermally stimulate the tongue to produce basic flavors; including bitter, sour, salty, sweet.
In the meantime, additional 'lickable taste gadgets' continue hitting the market, with some even promising to recreate any flavor without needing to even eat actual food. The most famous, created by, Hōmei Miyashita, works with the help of LED lighting and uses ion electrophoresis in five electrolyte gels, making this device able to trigger the five different tastes on the human tongue, which includes acidic, bitter, sweet, salty and umami.
While we could go on and on, here are just two additional use cases that promise to bring us one click away from any dream flavor.
Have you ever imagined 3D printing your next dinner? There are already some interesting proofs of concepts, for example, Cocuus a Spanish startup already showcased the printing of cultivated meat and fish by 3D printing ‘real’ vegan ribeye steak and salmon sashimi.
Another example comes from an Israeli food tech company called MeaTech that just filed a provisional patent application this month in the United States Patent Office (USPTO) for a novel bioprinting method that it believes has the potential to provide “exceptional control” of multi-layered bioink printing.
It's indeed a growing, scalable opportunity since its less intrusive; especially for those who don't want to use chips or sensors.
And finally, my favorite use case is of course the most futuristic one, brain computer interfaces.
Imagine receiving and streaming tastes directly to your brain? If you're curious, I recommend reading the report from The Royal Society called iHuman perspective: Neural interfaces - especially the part about “neural postcards,” where people could let others visually experience their trip or even “taste” the food they are eating, all by sharing their own brain’s neural activity.
A lot to digest isn't it?
Before we wrap this up, and since we are all about events here at Selected, you should check out LAVAL VIRTUAL EUROPE, Europe's first VR/AR exhibition - including 300 exhibitors, 9,000 m² of exhibition space, 150 speakers and 4 conference tracks; July 7th-9th, 2021.
And save the date for the ENTERPRISE WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT - happening every Wednesday from October 6th-27th, 2021.
Looking for something interesting to read during your upcoming summer holiday break?
I recommend picking up a copy of Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline and definitely taking some time to enjoy a full-senses summer break (with some digital detox if possible...)
Looking forward to reconnecting again once everyone is back in the fall!
Cover photo by Eduardo Cano Photo Co. on Unsplash