Vegetables Can Taste Like Chocolate by Adrian Cheok, Director of Imagineering Institute

Professor Adrian David Cheok gave a talk in Kuala Lumpur to Digi Telecommunications on their annual innovation day event.

Adrian David Cheok is Director of the Imagineering Institute, Malaysia, and Chair Professor of Pervasive Computing at City University London.

He is the Founder and Director of the Mixed Reality Lab, Singapore. His research focuses on multi-sensory internet communication, mixed reality, pervasive and ubiquitous computing, human-computer interfaces, and wearable computing. Today he talks about how the internet connects us and what we can do by blending reality, our senses, and the internet.

2016 Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony

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Each year, the University of Adelaide recognises the achievements of its most outstanding alumni at the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony. Awards include; Distinguished Alumni Award, James McWha Award of Excellence, Honours Alumni University Medal, Postgraduate Alumni and the University Medal and Alumni Fellows.

Interview with Professor Adrian Cheok – University of Adelaide Distinguished Alumni Award

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Adrian is a pioneer in mixed reality and multisensory communication; his innovation and leadership has been recognised internationally through multiple awards.
Some of his pioneering works in mixed reality include innovative and interactive games such as ‘3dlive’, ‘Human Pacman’ and ‘Huggy Pajama’. He is also the inventor of the world’s first electric and thermal taste machine, which produces virtual tastes with electric current and thermal energy.

Adrian Cheok is a 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in recognition of his achievements and contribution in the field of computing, engineering and multisensory communication.

View more alumni award winners at

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.

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


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.

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

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


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.


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.

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