If we believe scientists, a digital device can actually recreate the taste of virtual food and drinks by non-invasive electrical and thermal stimulation of the tongue.
A team led by Nimesha Ranasinghe, an engineer of Sri Lankan origin at the Keio-NUS Cute Centre in Singapore, has invented a simulator that can let you taste your favourite food online. For free, literally.
"This simulator generates signals transmitted through a silver electrode, touching the tip of the tongue, to produce salty, sweet, sour and bitter sensations. By combining different levels of electrical currents and varying the temperature of the electrode, simulation of the tastes can be reproduced," said Ranasinghe in a press release issued by National University of Singapore.
The research team has developed taste-over-Internet protocol for taste messaging - a data format that facilitates the delivery of information on recreating the different tastes via electrode.
However, the four major tastes form only part of the flavour equation. Smell and texture play key roles which the researchers want to add on for the full tasting experience, the release added.
To achieve this feat, scientists reported sour, salty and bitter sensations from electrical stimulation while minty, spicy and sweet sensations were reported through thermal stimulation on two separate group of individuals.
The group that has thermal stimulation represented minor sensations, requiring further work to intensify the tastes.
"This work has three novel aspects - the studying of the electronic simulation and control of taste sensations achievable through Digital Taste Interface against the properties of current and change in temperature; the method of actuating taste sensations by electrical and thermal stimulation methods, either individually or in combination; and the aim of introducing a practical solution to implement virtual taste interactions in interactive computing systems," said the release.
The simulator can also work for those having health problems. For instance, diabetics could use the device for a taste of sweetness without affecting their blood sugar levels.
Cancer patients may be able to improve their dulled sense of taste during chemotherapy with the electrode, concluded the study.