Saturday August 9, 2003
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Taste is the last frontier of virtual reality according to the inventors of the Food Simulator- a haptic interface that mimics the taste, sound and feeling of chewing real food. Currently at demonstration stage, the project by researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan utilizes a mechanical linkage designed to fit to the mouth that simulates force according to the type of food and delivers the chemical sensation of taste via an in-built micro injector.
All three aspects of the Food Simulator are synchronized - a force sensor is activated to coincide with the chemical taste injection and the sound of biting is also transmitted via a bone vibration microphone.
The force mechanism is configured to match the force required to bite real food of varying textures and consistencies and the sensation of taste is synthesized from five basic elements - sweet, sour, bitter, salty and the so-called "fifth-element of taste", Umami.
The Simulator is the creation of Hiroo Iwata, Hiroaki Yano, Naohiro Uemura and Tetsuro Moriya featured in the SIGGRAPH 2003 Emerging Technologies Submissions. Practical applications for the first-of-its-kind device - elderly people can practice biting to strengthen their muscles using low resistance setting, new foods can be designed using the simulator as a research tool and it also opens another door into a virtual future that's evolving fast.
Follow the links below for more on the Food Stimulator and other VR devices.