A clever mix of electronics and cocktail glasses will change water into wine, Wait, what? The ability to sense taste and flavour is one of the five senses in humans. The flavour is a pleasurable sensory perception which we experience daily while eating and drinking something. But research is also going on digitally stimulating what is called virtual flavour. The most recent advancement in this field is the Vocktail.
Research on Virtual Flavours
Researchers at The National University of Singapore (NUS) recently designed a cocktail glass which tricks your senses into thinking that the water you are drinking is something else. The new device is the result of hard work in the laboratories in reproducing flavours virtually. The first such device was a digital lollipop in 2013.
It helped the NUS team to find out a way to stimulate basic flavour type like sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Electrical and thermal signals were applied to the tongue in order to do this. Then, researchers also developed a tumbler to ‘teleport’ sourness and colour of lemonade to a plain glass of water. The glass is capable of transforming plain water into a mix of sensations reminiscent of those of wine, orange juice or even mojito.
Vocktail- The future of Virtual Flavours
There is nothing very virtual about- Virtual Cocktail. Change of colour and the aromatic sensation produce the colour sensation with the use of food aromas. The taste sensations produced are the only thing that is virtual. As the taste buds are electrically stimulated without the use of any tasty chemical. All of this gives us the impression that we are drinking something else. But in reality, we are simply sipping water!!
Hence, the Vocktail (virtual cocktail) digitally changes your drinks! The drink consists of a cocktail glass that fits nicely into a 3D-printed structure containing all the electronics for multisensory stimulation. According to the lead researcher, Nimesha Ranasinghe, Vocktail targets your three senses- the sense of smell, taste and sight.
Targetting the Sense of Smell
According to studies, about 80% of the flavours we taste come from what we smell. Thus it is crucial to have aromas corresponding to the desired drinks. The 3D-Printed structure holds 3 scent cartridges and 3 micro-air pumps. It is these air pumps that influence the taste of the drink by releasing smell molecules to change the drinker’s perception of the drink. Or instance, air pumps will release a lemon scent for a lemonade drink.
Similarly, we can plug new smells. This is similar to cartridges on an ink-jet printer. Further research is being conducted on not only increasing the number of smells but also a silent-release mechanism.
Targetting the Sense of Taste
2 electrode strips are positioned on the rim of the glass. On coming in contact with the tongue, they send out electric pulses. These, in turn, stimulate taste buds to mimic the different taste. It is 180 microampere for sour taste, 80 microamperes for bitter and 40 microamperes for salty taste.
Targetting the Sense of Sight
We know for a fact that the colour of a drink influences our perception of its flavour. Thus, it is essential to alter the colour of the drink. A LED is provided at the bottom of the Vocktail that is responsible for flashing a colour. The colour that corresponds to the drink can be easily customized. For example dark red colour is flashed for red wine. Opacity or transparency of a drink is also essential, however, this characteristic cannot be modified.
Vocktail- The Unique Features and Benefits
These features are all controlled by a phone app. Thus, allowing users to customise their drink according to their taste.
The Vocktail helps make dieting easier, by giving people the flavour with none of the sugar, salt or calories. Using this technology, salt can be delivered in a virtual manner without any health drawbacks. Similarly, for diabetic patients, sugar consumption can also be reduced without any loss of sensory pleasure.
Researchers are now working on other aspects that influence flavours, like fizziness and texture.
However, Vocktail’s use of LED does open up certain avenues. But, presently the range of possibilities is limited. Similarly, aroma must stimulate our olfactory system by passing through the back of the throat as we exhale (retronasal perception) and not through the nose as we inhale (orthonasal perception). The effect is not the same. Moreover, the glass only stimulates the top of the tongue, which is not comparable to the sensation produced throughout the mouth. And, the sensation stops as soon as the contact with the glass is broken. Hence, these areas require further study and research in order to provide a better experience. Researchers are working towards better results in these areas.
Read more about Air Co.: Vodka from Thin Air
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