What’s the only thing better than sinking your teeth into a gooey chocolate brownie or a juicy double cheeseburger?
Those same appetizing experiences without the ruthless revenge on your midsection, of course.
Thanks to new and ongoing developments in the virtual reality realm, that dream could very well come true.
At least two research teams are currently working on ways to trick the human brain into enjoying a virtual reality meal, both in terms of its taste and texture.
At the Annual Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, researchers from the National University of Singapore demonstrated their success in simulating the sensation of sweetness through a system that swiftly heats and cools the tongue.
“Being a pleasurable sensation, sweetness is recognized as the most preferred sensation among the five primary taste sensations,” said the researchers.
“We present a novel method to virtually simulate the sensation of sweetness by applying thermal stimulation to the tip of the human tongue. Results from the preliminary experiments suggest that the participants were able to perceive mild sweetness on the tip of their tongue while using the proposed system.”
In the experiments, participants touched their tongues to the thermoelectric elements and roughly half of them detected a sensation of sweetness. Others said they detected a spicy sensation when the element was hotter and a minty taste when it was cooler.
The researchers said these devices could potentially be attached to drinking glasses in an effort to trick consumers into thinking low-sugar beverages are sweeter than they actually are.
A different group of researchers from the University of Tokyo is concentrating on introducing different food textures to virtual reality. Through a process of placing electrodes on the jaw muscles used for chewing and then changing the frequency and length of an electric pulse, they’ve been successful in simulating ranges of solidity of virtual foods. Through experiments, they’ve been able to trick participants into thinking real food they’re chewing has a completely different texture.
While both these developments are in their early stages, their potential to make virtual reality tastier (and perhaps even healthier) knows no bounds.