If it looks like lemonade and it tastes like lemonade, is it lemonade? Scientists in Singapore have managed to trick the senses into thinking so, with just a glass of water, some LED lights, and an electric pulse.
The team at the National University of Singapore have ambitious plans to allow people to virtually share drinks through the Internet and to taste those beautiful Instagramed cocktails you see on a regular basis by providing a sensory experience at home.
“People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media – what if you could upload the taste as well? That’s the ultimate goal,” Nimesha Ranasinghe, a member of the research team, told New Scientist.
The researchers presented their experiment at the Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction, held in Japan this month. They explained how they used a digital tumbler filled with water that had an electrode running around the rim of the glass. When drinkers touched it with their tongue, it delivered an electric pulse that stimulated their taste buds, mimicking a sour taste.
To get the look of lemonade, they used an RGB color sensor to capture the correct color and used LED lights to mimic it, producing “lemonade” in three colors – yellow, green, and cloudy white.
To test the success of their virtual drink, they had 13 volunteers blind taste a variety of virtual and real glasses of lemonade. They were asked to rate how sour the drink was based on how it looked and then how it tasted.
They found that most people reported the real lemonade tasted sourer, but the LED-lit lemonade looked more sour. So the virtual drink is not perfect yet, but is pretty successful so far. Lemonade is also a relatively simple drink to imitate compared to other more complex cocktails.
Ranasinghe and his team have big plans for expanding their experiment. Already working on an “electric lollipop”, they are planning to step up the digital drink by adding other functions, like smell.
“We’re working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste, and color all covered,” he said. "We want to be able to create any drink."
He also suggested there could be more far-reaching repercussions than just enjoying a virtual drink with your online buddies. It could act as an alternative, or even better, a replacement for sugary drinks for those who want a fix without the calories or high sugar count.
[H/T: New Scientist]