Technology and Tastebuds – Digital Lollipops Could Taste like Turkey


Ah Thanksgiving, I believe it exists not only to remind us of all the things we have to be thankful for, but also to drive home the fact that eating is a wonderful thing. Of course too-much-turkey hangover, and a 5 pound weight gain overnight …not so much. If only we could have all the pleasure of food and snacks, with none of the pesky after effects.

Now, what if you could eat a nice leafy green salad, and have your tastebuds tell you that it was a bacon double cheeseburger with fried onions and extra ketchup? Well, it could happen, in fact, Nimesha Ranasinghe, a Ph.D. research scholar at the National University of Singapore, is in the process of developing a device that actually simulates flavors directly on the tip of your tongue, using a “lollipop” consisting of a silver electrode.

In fact, Nimesha and his team are able to reproduce our most established basic tastes, like, sweet, salty, sour and bitter, and by combining these flavors, a person’s taste receptors are fooled by simply varying the alternating current from the lollipop and slight but rapid changes in temperature. Imagine being able to one day believe you are tasting real food!

Where could this technology take us? I can think of a vast market for such a device. From dieters to diabetics being able to experience foods that shouldn’t be on the menu, to advertisers being able to offer up sample tastes of their next delicious offerings, to entertainment venues like movie theaters, where you would be able to taste what you see on screen. Yup, it could be huge… but for the time being, I’m sticking with my turkey and gravy – and then I’m going to take a nap.


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