Strange New Technologies Explore the World of Virtual Taste, Touch, & Smell

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By Adam Dachis

Virtual, mixed, and augmented reality all provide different but compellingly immersive experiences that draw us in through sight and sound. But what about our other senses? A few strange inventions are already exploring the possibilities.

Adrian Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University London and the director of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Labs, decided to figure out the best ways to connect our other senses to digital environments. That definitely includes smell and taste, along with touch, and those sensations can be a bit more difficult to “render” with technology.

Adrian Cheok demoing a couple of different devices.Image by Adrian Cheok/the Imagineering Institute

Previous attempts at recreating smell and taste required chemical emissions to provide those sensations, but that method was never practical and ultimately failed (see: Smell-O-Vision). Instead, Cheok wants to avoid creating stimuli and just manipulate your brain, as he explained in an interview with Motherboard:

We want to transmit smells without using any chemical, so what we’re going to do is use magnetic coils to stimulate the olfactory bulb part of the brain associated with smell. At first, our plan was to insert them through the skull, but unfortunately the olfactory part of the brain is at the bottom, and doing deep-brain stimulation is very difficult.

Image by Adrian Cheok/Alamy

While that might sound a little scary, the actual technology Cheok created is a little less invasive. Still, most people will likely find his current method at least a little off-putting:

Not much—magnetic fields are very safe. Anyway, our present idea is to place the coils at the back of your mouth. There is a bone there called the palatine bone, which is very close to the region of your brain that makes you perceive smells and tastes. In that way we’ll be able to make you feel them just by means of magnetic actuation.

Nevertheless, this approach points to some very interesting possibilities down the line. Because virtual worlds mostly exist for our entertainment, we easily forget that immersive headsets can subtly hack our brains. As sense-manipulating technology evolves, it will become possible to completely alter a person’s perception of reality.

That prospect is both incredible and somewhat disturbing. Cheok wants to create digital restaurant menus that let us smell each dish through our smartphones, software that makes us feel like we’re cuddling with our significant when they’re thousands of miles away, and even applications that can improve moods through target smells and tastes. Transmitting scent and tactile feeling has obvious applications in the virtual sex/pornography industry as well.

The sex industry already has a subcategory of products, known as teledildonics, for emulating touch over a distance. Companies like OhMiBod and Mojowijo offer a variety of toys to aid couples in virtual, remote sex.Image via Mojowijo

Thanks to the fine line our brains draw between the sensation of touch and pain, there may also immense benefits in the health industry—particularly when it comes to the horribly inadequate methods of pain management we currently utilize. We’re already seeing progress in this specific case with VR headsets alone.

Unfortunately, all this potential could lead to malicious uses down the line. While no technology can ever avoid that problem entirely, when it comes to literally hacking a person’s brain a lot of care will be necessary to keep users safe. It’s too early to tell if we’ll see Cheok’s inventions evolve and proliferate in consumer markets, but it won’t matter much. The methods for manipulating our senses already exist. How we use them will ultimately determine whether they’ll benefit society or pose a serious threat. If history is any indication, it’ll likely be a mix of both.

http://next.reality.news/news/strange-new-technologies-explore-world-virtual-taste-touch-smell-0172608/

Scientists develop device that makes food tastier

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AB Wire, October 13, 2016
Device was developed by scientists at University of London

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A group of scientists at the University of London has developed a gadget that can make feel food tastier than actually what it is. The prototype introduced at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, in Birmingham uses electric signals to make the effect, reported Telegraph.

While the prototype can boost sweet and salty taste, the scientists are working on developing the device to a full-fledged one which can stimulate all tastes.

“What started out as a fun engineering experiment has now led to something much more exciting with the potential to have a positive social impact,” said Dr. Cheok, professor of pervasive computing.

“The Taste Buddy could eventually help save lives, by allowing people to switch to healthier food choices. Many children hate the taste of vegetables. So I knew that when I became an engineer, I wanted to make a device that could allow children to eat vegetables that taste like chocolate,” added Cheok.

After developing the device, it could be fit within all utensils like spoons, cups, and cans. A prototype spoon is in the pipeline.

The device emits thermal and electric signals that stimulate taste buds which help feel food tastier than actually what it is. The chemical reaction happening in the mouth is stimulated using electrical signals and temperature.

The receptors on the tongue use the reaction between saliva and the acidity of hydrogen or sodium to recognize the salty taste. When Taste Buddy is used, electrical stimulation from the device stimulates artificial reaction.

Sweetness is recognized by a channel called TRPM5 which uses variation in temperature of the food. When hot food is taken, it feels sweeter. To exploit the temperature variation, the device quickly raises the temperature of the tongue from 77F (25C) to 104F (40C).

“We’re actually trying out a spoon interface to eat desserts at the moment. We’ve been changing the temperature of the spoon from 25 Celsius to 40 Celsius using an electronic circuit. People have reported sweeter tastes when eating sweets at a warmer temperature,” said Kasun Thejitha Karunanayaka who is also working in the group.

“Just like the microchip, we’re hoping to make the taste buddy smaller and smaller, to eventually fit within cutlery, fizzy drink cans, utensils, and cups, and to be powered by a Bluetooth device, to choose the levels of taste you’d like,” Karunanayaka added.

https://www.americanbazaaronline.com/2016/10/13/scientists-develop-device-that-makes-food-tastier418239/

Can’t get your kids to eat veg? This device could solve your mealtime problems

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JOHN VON RADOWITZ

The device uses a weak electric current to trick the taste buds into thinking bland or unappetising ‘healthy’ food is a delicious treat

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Can’t get your kids to eat veg? This device may solve your mealtime problems

A device that tricks the tongue could one day be used to turn the most unappetising “healthy” food into a delicious treat, scientists say.

Placed in the mouth, the Taste Buddy emits thermal and electric signals that stimulate the taste buds.

While the early prototype is restricted to imitating sweet or salty tastes, future versions have the potential to completely alter our diets – for instance, by transforming bland tofu into juicy steak, or conjuring up chocolate broccoli, it is claimed.

Professor Adrian Cheok, from City, University of London, who led the team of scientists and engineers that created the device said: “What started out as a fun engineering experiment has now led to something much more exciting with the potential to have a positive social impact.

“The Taste Buddy could eventually help save lives, by allowing people to switch to healthier food choices.”

He added: “Many children hate the taste of vegetables. So I knew that when I became an engineer, I wanted to make a device that could allow children to eat vegetables that taste like chocolate.”

In its current early form the Taste Buddy consists of a 2cm wide tab that sits on the tongue and is wired to a bulky processor.

To enhance sweetness, the device warms up very rapidly and stimulates specific taste receptors that react to heat.

A weak electric current is used to target other taste buds responsible for salty flavours.

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Members of the public will have a chance to try out the Taste Buddy for themselves at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Engineers Fair.

The event, aimed at young people interested in science, technology and engineering, takes place from March 15 to 18 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/cant-your-kids-eat-veg-9034892?ICID=FB_mirror_main

Diet cutlery? Electronic spoons which make food taste sweeter on horizon

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Sarah Knapton, science editor, 13 OCTOBER 2016 • 6:00AM

Spoons which can change the taste of food could soon be available
Spoons which can change the taste of food could soon be available

 

Dieters will be able to have their cake and eat it after scientists developed a device which makes low-sugar food taste sweeter.

The invention – dubbed Taste Buddy – emits a  low-level electrical current to stimulate taste buds so the mouth perceives sweet or salty flavours, even when they are not really present.

It is being developed by scientists at the University of London, led by Prof Adrian Cheok, who unveiled the gadget at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, in Birmingham this week.

The device could eventually be engineered to fit within everyday utensils such as cutlery, cups and cans and the team has already begun working on a prototype spoon.

Many children hate the taste of vegetables. I wanted to make a device that could allow children to eat vegetables that taste like chocolate.

Prof Cheok said with further development it could be used to allow people to taste something they enjoy while eating a healthy dish, for example making tofu taste like steak or vegetables like chocolate.

“What started out as a fun engineering experiment has now led to something much more exciting with the potential to have a positive social impact,” said Dr Cheok, professor of pervasive computing.

“The Taste Buddy could eventually help save lives, by allowing people to switch to healthier food choices.

“Many children hate the taste of vegetables. So I knew that when I became an engineer, I wanted to make a device that could allow children to eat vegetables that taste like chocolate.”

A girl tests out the prototype 
The prototype is being unveiled at the Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, in Birmingham 

The invention exploits the chemical reactions happening in the mouth when we eat. Sour and salty tastes are recognised when taste receptors on the tongue detect the reaction between saliva and the acidity of hydrogen or sodium.

Using electrical stimulation the team has found a frequency which artificially simulates the reaction

For sweet tastes there is a channel called TRPM5 which is temperature sensitive, so people taste more sweetness when the food is hot than cold. So to mimic sweeter tastes the device changes the temperature of the tongue rapidly from 77F (25C) to 104F (40C.)

Kasun Thejitha Karunanayaka who has been working alongside Prof Cheok at the University of London said: We’re actually trying out a spoon interface to eat desserts at the moment.

“We’ve been changing the temperature of the spoon from 25 Celsius to 40 Celsius  using an electronic circuit. People have reported sweeter tastes when eating sweets at a warmer temperature.

“We’re going to do a study next year into the eating behaviours of people too, to help create a cutlery set.

“Just like the microchip, we’re hoping to make the taste buddy smaller and smaller, to eventually fit within cutlery, fizzy drink cans, utensils and cups, and to be powered by a bluetooth device, to choose the levels of taste you’d like.”

Testing the device in the lab
Testing the device in the lab

The team say that they are also working on producing different tastes which they claim is time consuming because even the difference between a lemon and a lime is vast.

“We also want to take into consideration just how different everyone’s sense of taste is, added Mr Karunanayaka.

“For instance, we know that people who eat lots of spicy food, or people who smoke, have less sensitive taste, and therefore need a higher thermal and electrical current to create the taste. To make it robust enough and available to absolutely everyone, we need to do more work.”

The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair takes place from the 15-18 March 2017 at the NEC in Birmingham. For more information, visit www.thebigbangfair.co.uk.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/10/13/diet-cutlery-electronic-spoons-which-make-food-taste-sweeter-on/

VEGETABLES CAN TASTE LIKE CHOCOLATE USING TASTE BUDDY DEVICE

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Posted: Oct 14 2016, 4:00am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 14 2016, 5:12am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Vegetables Can Taste Like Chocolate Using Taste Buddy Device
Wonderful Gadget makes Boring Diet Food Taste like Delicious Junk Food

 

A truly wonderful gadget is coming to the marketplace. It makes boring diet food taste like delicious junk food.

When people go on a diet they have great difficulty sticking to it in the long run. That is because some of the scrumptious foods that are banned by the diet remain as tantalizing temptations.

The brain’s appetite centers face burnout and soon the person is dining on all that sugary, salty, fat-filled food and the diet has gone with the wind. Yet there is good news for dieters. They can have their cake and eat it too (no pun intended).

A gizmo termed Taste Buddy can do the trick. It apparently fools the taste buds into believing that bland diet food is delicious junk food, according to DailyMail. The prototype for the device has already been made. It is introduced into the mouth.

This gadget then emits electrical and thermal signals that manipulate the taste buds in such a manner that they are tricked into believing that boring is interesting in matters having to do with food.

The prototype is meant to imitate sweet and salty tastes right now. There lies some more tweaking in the future device that could radically alter the taste of your diet.

You can think of this device as one that alters the taste of bland tofu to resemble juicy beef steak. Or for that matter, it can make broccoli taste like chocolate.

It basically started out as a side interest in engineering but soon the researchers saw that the device held potential and they just proceeded to delve into the complexities of this bionic device of sorts.

This contraption can save the lives of people in the long run. When people can take the most spartan of diets and feel like they are gourmets at a banquet, the device’s makers will have been redeemed.

Take the case of many children who find vegetables to be a yucky food. To make stuff like broccoli taste like chocolate will allow these young ones to live in a healthier manner yet feel like they are eating their favorite treats.

This would indeed be the ideal setup for them. The current form of the Taste Buddy consists of a two centimeters wide tab that lies on the tongue and is connected to a large processor.

It can trigger sweet and salty tastes in the tongue of the person that is using it. Soon a science fair will take place where the Taste Buddy will be on display and ordinary people will get to try it for real.

http://www.i4u.com/2016/10/116226/vegetables-can-taste-chocolate-using-taste-buddy-device

City academic tickles the taste buds with new device

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Professor of Pervasive Computing, Professor Adrian Cheok, and his research team create the ‘Taste Buddy’.

by City Press Office (General enquiries)

Adrian Cheok

A team of scientists and engineers, led by City’s Professor of Pervasive Computing and Director of the Imagineering Institute, Professor Adrian Cheok has created the ‘Taste Buddy’,

The device is placed in the mouth and emits a low-level electrical current that stimulates taste buds, imitating sweet and salty tastes and could enable people to lead healthier lifestyles.

In its simplest form, the ‘Taste Buddy’ can be used to enhance specific tastes, such as making foods sweeter or saltier based on personal preference.

Taste Buddy technology equipment

Professor Cheok predicts that the ‘Taste Buddy’ could eventually be powerful enough to completely transform the taste of a specific food, allowing people to taste something they enjoy, whilst eating something healthier (for example, making a piece of tofu taste like steak).

The device, which is predicted to be available on the high street within the next 20 years, could eventually be engineered to fit within everyday utensils such as cutlery, cups and cans.

Healthier food choices

Young people can try out prototypes of the technology first hand at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, the UK’s largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people.

Professor Cheok says:

“What started out as a fun engineering experiment has now led to something much more exciting with the potential to have a positive social impact. The ‘Taste Buddy’ is a great example of skilled science and engineering working hand in hand with a relevant and fun impact. The Taste Buddy could eventually help save lives, by allowing people to switch to healthier food choices.”

“Many children hate the taste of vegetables. So I knew that when I became an engineer, I wanted to make a device that could allow children to eat vegetables that taste like chocolate!”

Man testing the Taste Buddy with his tongue

Definition: Prototype
A prototype is an original or first model of something from which other forms are copied or developed.

City academic receives Distinguished Alumni Award from University of Adelaide

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Special recognition for Professor Adrian Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing in the Department of Computer Science.

by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

Adrian Cheok recieving his award from the University of Adelaide

Professor Adrian Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing in City, University of London’s Department of Computer Science, received a Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater, the University of Adelaide, South Australia, on 9th September.

The Award is “in recognition of alumni who have enhanced the reputation of the University through outstanding service to the community or who have made an outstanding contribution in their chosen fields.”

The Awards were established in 1991 by the trustees of the former Alumni Association and are now administered by the Alumni Office.

Internationally recognised innovation

Professor Cheok obtained a First Class Honours Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1994 and completed his PhD in Engineering in 1999. He has been a pioneer in mixed reality and multisensory communication and his innovation and leadership has been recognised internationally through multiple awards.

He was presented with his Award by Professor Warren Bebbington, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide.

Professor Cheok joined City, University of London as a Professor of Pervasive Computing in 2013. He is also the Director of the Imagineering Institute in Iskandar, Malaysia.

Some of his pioneering works in mixed reality include innovative and interactive games such as ‘3dlive’, ‘Human Pacman’ and ‘Huggy Pajama’. Professor Cheok is also the inventor of the world’s first electric and thermal taste machine, which produces virtual tastes with electric current and thermal energy.

Definition: Mixed Reality 

Mixed reality (MR), sometimes referred to as hybrid reality, is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Mixed reality takes place not only in the physical world or the virtual world, but is a mix of reality and virtual reality, encompassing both augmented reality and augmented virtuality

 https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2016/september/city-academic-receives-distinguished-alumni-award
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