Tasting Video Games Coming Next…?

A professor at Meiji University in Japan, Homei Miyashita, developed the Norimaki Synthesizer: A lickable rod that lets users enjoy various flavors without having to actually consume food. Debuted this quarter, the device has five gel nodules made of electrolytes that emit the five main taste sensations: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami. When the sushi-like rod (named after the norimaki roll) is turned on, it delivers controlled amounts of each gel/taste to the tongue, to simulate specific flavors.

One day, all across the world, will mindless snacking be replaced by mindless (possibly healthier) Norimaki Synthesizer-licking?

The study from Homei Miyashita (Meiji University) describes the production of a novel taste display which uses ion electrophoresis in five gels containing electrolytes that supply controlled amounts of each of the five basic tastes to apply an arbitrary taste to the user’s tongue, analogous to optical displays that produce arbitrary colors from lights of three basic colors.

When applied to the tongue with no voltage, the user can taste all five tastes. However, when an electric potential is applied, the cations in the gel move to the cathode side and away from the tongue, so that the flavor is tasted weakly.

In this way, we have developed a taste display that reproduces an arbitrary taste by individually suppressing the sensation of each of the five basic tastes (like subtractive synthesis.)

This study differs from previous work in that it uses an electric current for electrophoresis rather than electrically stimulating the tongue, and it does not involve ingestion of a solution to deliver the taste.