New Scientist reports that a team of researchers at the National University of Singapore have developed a digital simulator that can synthesize four of the five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, and bitter (umani has not yet been added). When touched on the tongue, the experts claim that the so called “electronic lollipop” is able to trick taste receptors using an electronic signal. This invention will one day allow viewers to taste the food they see on television, or provide video games with new taste-based reward systems (a sweet taste for completing a level, a sour taste for failing).
The taste synthesizer, which consists of two thin metal slabs place on top of and under the tongue, works by tricking your taste sensors with a varying alternating current and small changes in temperature.
People with diabetes might be able to use the taste synthesizer to simulate sweet sensations without harming their actual blood sugar levels, Cancer patients could use it to improve or regenerate a diminished sense of taste during chemotherapy.
The scientists have even developed a new data format, TOIP (taste over internet protocol) to electronically transmit different tastes. If these magical taste lollipops become common, in the future we may be able to experience taste transmitted through television, ads, and our smartphones.
The machine does not currently simulate smell and texture, also an important part of taste, but the team is working on adding these features. The team is also working on a “digital lollipop” that will simulate a sugar rush without the sugar.