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Future Tech: 

Meet the smartcup that enhances flavors

Fake flavor. Taste+ makes your tastebuds think things taste different...

Fake flavor. Taste+ makes your tastebuds think things taste different…

Want to make your drink taste sweeter, but don’t want the calories of sugar and don’t trust artificial sweeteners? Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable faking flavor with electric pulses to the tongue?

That’s what Taste+ offers, in a particularly sweet tasting nutshell. Or bitter, sour or salty, depending on your personal taste. It’s the work of engineers at the National University of Singapore, and while it will enhance the flavor of any meal, its main audience is those who have lost their sense of taste with age, or through medical treatments. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have the side-effect of causing damage to tastebuds, and the smartcup could compensate for that.

There’s also a smartspoon for solids. Both prototypes allow you to change the taste on the fly, letting you adjust how sweet, sour or salty something tastes at the touch of a button. “You can drink lemonade and you can virtually control the sour intensity using this kind of technology,” Nimesha Ranasingue, a research fellow at the university told IB Times UK.

So how does the technology work? Silver electrodes on the tongue, which may sound like a form of medieval torture, but it’s pretty mild in this context: “We used electrical stimulation on the tongue to conduct studies and try to come up with a model saying ‘using these parameters we can activate these primary taste sensations.”

“By using silver electrodes we apply controlled and brief electrical impulses to the tongue while you are drinking something, or with the spoon while you are eating something in order to augment or alter the existing taste sensations.”

The engineers hope to bring commercial Taste+ devices to market within the next year, but there’s potential beyond the good of restoring taste to those who have lost it. Taste+ could be added to virtual reality experiences. Not only could you be in a virtual environment in Oculus Rift – you could taste the local cuisine of your virtual world too.  So best make sure you pick somewhere nice for your virtual holiday, or you may end up being non-virtually sick.

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