Researchers invent a way to transmit drinks over the Internet
Researchers in Singapore have developed a way to teleport a drink over the internet — sort of.
A team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed a way to digitally transmit the flavour of a drink, and have it reproduced by electrodes to trick your tongue into thinking it is tasting lemonade.
Team leader Dr Nimesha Ranasinghe presented "virtual lemonade" at a conference in March in Yokohoma, Japan, Today Online reported.
The "virtual lemonade" replicates the taste of lemonade, and can be transmitted through the internet to anywhere on the planet.
It works through the combination of a special "lemonade sensor" and glass with electrical diodes.
The "lemonade sensor" is actually two sensors in one device: The first sensor detects the colour of the drink, the other measures the drink's pH level (a numeric scale used to specify the acidity of a solution).
The information from the two attributes is then transmitted online to the customised glass, which is filled with water. LED lights at the bottom of the tumbler replicate the colour of the drink, while electrodes around the rim send electrical pulses to your taste buds to mimic sourness.
Ranasinghe and his team demonstrated the process to Today Online. A taste test comparing the original lemonade and the virtual one found them to be almost identical except for a little more sweetness in the store-bought lemonade.
The "virtual lemonade" took around five months to complete and the prototype cost around S$100 (NZD$102) to build.
Work is underway to transmit more sophisticated flavours in the future.
The research is part of a "digital taste" project, which the team has been working on for nearly six years.
The digital taste project is aimed at improving the palatability of food for the elderly.
"As we get older, our senses diminish with age... Diminished taste sensations and restricted intake of flavour enhancers have made malnutrition a common problem for the elderly," he said. "(Our project) could potentially make food taste better (for the elderly)."
In addition, Ranasinghe sees the project providing healthy food or drink options for the elderly in the particular. For example, he has create a modified soup bowl was able to replicate the saltiness of miso soup, without the sodium content inside.
The virtual lemonade project could soon be on the market soon with discussions taking place to produce a "robust" prototype.
Local hospitals have already enquired on a device that could increase the taste sensation for the elderly, or stroke patients.
However, a device that can replicate any drink will take much longer.
"It's still a challenging road ahead for all researchers... personally, I don't like to predict this, but I would say at the very least it'll take five to 10 years (to produce something that could replicate any drink)... Adapting it into our daily lives, it'll take even longer than that."
Ranasinghe doesn't see it completely replacing "real" drinks.
"It doesn't make sense to virtually simulate the nutrition as our bodies require them for our very survival. We cannot live in a completely simulated environment as we need sustenance, vitamins, nutrition, etc. for our livelihood," he said.