Virtual reality technology has penetrated just about every one of our five senses, except for one: taste. Well, that's about to change.
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A team of researchers led by Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore have developed a digital simulator capable of transmitting the taste of virtual food and drink to the tongue. Its designers envision the synthesizer being used in tandem with visual content like video games or television shows. For example, TV viewers might one day be able to taste foods being prepared on cooking shows.
"In a gaming environment we could come up with a new reward system based on taste sensations," Ranasinghe told New Scientist. "For example, if you complete a game task successfully, or complete a level, we can give a sweet, minty or sour reward. If you fail we can deliver a bitter message."
The device consists of a small silver electrode attached to the tip of the tongue. By slightly alternating the current and temperature of the semiconductor, taste receptors can be fooled by signals that replicate the four major tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter.