A Japanese professor has developed a prototype television screen that can imitate food flavors, allowing viewers to lick the screen and sample what they see.
It works by using a selection of 10 canisters, all of which are flavored differently, that spray in combination to create the taste of a particular food. The flavor sample then rolls onto disposable hygienic films that cover a flat TV screen for the viewer to try.
An advertisement for the new prototype shows a man asking the device for some “sweet chocolate.” The prototype television screen responds with “sweet chocolate, all right” before making a series of loud whirring noises while layers of chocolate are displayed on the screen. Moments later, a tongue licks the TV screen and tastes the sweet confectionary.
“To measure the taste of various food and beverage, we used taste sensors,” the advert states. “By spraying and mixing, it recreates the same taste. This digital menu can be tasted.” The advert also noted that “by spraying on a tray, demonstrations can be done in a hygienic manner.”
The device comes with multiple interactive games and quizzes that viewers can also use while tasting what they see on screen. This includes a “video chat with taste” where viewers can communicate with other people who are using the device while chowing down on their virtual food as part of a multi-sensory experience.
The substances used in the 10 canisters create the taste of alcohol, spice, and fragrance.
“You can compare your daily intake of salt and sugar with WHO standards,” according to the advert.
Creator Miyashita, 22, said the new technology can enhance the way people connect and interact with the outside world, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen countries around the world go into lockdown.
“The goal is to make it possible for people to have the experience of something like eating at a restaurant on the other side of the world, even while staying at home,” Miyashita said.
Commercially, the device would cost about 100,000 yen ($875) to make, he said.
Miyashita works with a team of about 30 students that have produced a variety of flavor-related devices, including a fork that makes food taste richer. He has also been in discussions with companies about using his spray technology for other applications, such as for a device that can apply the taste of pizza or chocolate to a slice of toasted bread.
Reuters contributed to this report.