food, hardware, synesthesia, lifestyle
Like our other senses, it’s possible to create digital experiences for the tongue, by providing carefully controlled electrical impulses. We set out to explore and refine this new neural interface. This project illustrates our iterative prototyping process.
1. Functional prototype
Initially, we wanted to test whether electronic taste was even possible, regardless of the aesthetics of the device. We created a plastic pad for the tongue, with jumper wires connected straight to a breadboard and simple circuit. We tested various voltages and waveforms to see whether we could stimulate tastes like salty, sweet, bitter, and umami.
2. Basic design
With a few tastes enabled, we turned to the design of form factors that would resemble a real product. For example, we developed easy-to-swap tongue pads with permanent electrodes, so different users and tastes can use the same base unit with batteries and buttons.
3. Exploring aesthetics
We built several mockups with “shelf appeal” - designed to look like an actual product that might be sold in stores. Like actual popsicles, bright colors and unique shapes are meant to enhance the taste experience via other senses.