A Matter of Taste: Flavor-Changing Cookies Fool the Senses

For virtual reality or even augmented reality to ever fully reach their potential as regular parts of our society, all of our senses will have to be engaged. Engaging the sense of taste, however, has always been tricky since taste is actually a complex set of input signals. Taste involves vision, memory and smell along with the actual taste buds. A team of geniuses at the University of Tokyo recently demonstrated how computers will simulate taste in the future. Their invention: flavor changing cookies.

To experience this trip into the future, an adventurous soul has to do little more than put on a headset and pick up a plain cookie. The cookies are branded with a simple logo that is tracked by the computer inside the headset. With his gaze, the wearer chooses from seven cookie flavors. The headset then overlays the plain cookie with an image of the selected cookie variety. An air pump spits out puffs of aroma corresponding to the chosen cookie flavor, increasing in strength as the cookie gets closer to the eater’s nose. The visual overlay tells the eater what texture to expect and the scent spray suggests the flavor, resulting in a complete sensory trip that fools the sense of taste. Instead of tasting the unflavored cookie he is actually eating, the experimenter tastes his chosen cookie flavor.

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See more in Weird Science or under Science. January, 2011.