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.
Decoupling is the idea that we can divide and isolate our senses for a different experience. After playing with decoupling with Vapeohol, we got curious about what other senses we could separate. Specifically, we were interested in a way to taste without sustenance.
Futurity: Electronic Popsicle
The electronic popsicle uses controlled electrical currents to activate specific taste receptors on the tongue, creating the sensation of tasting without the need for ingestion. By modulating the intensity, duration, and frequency of the electrical signals, the device can replicate a wide range of taste sensations.
Now that we have successfully decoupled taste and food, we wonder about connecting another senses to taste, like hearing. Can you taste sounds? What if you could connect a speaker to your tongue and taste your favorite song? Could musicians create a culinary experience, or chefs make music? Once you can decouple senses, you can recouple them in fascinating ways.