Researchers at the National University of Singapore may have just created a safe alternative to drinking alcohol with a glass which can trick the mind into believing that water is actually a cocktail. The virtual drink uses LED lights, electric impulses, and scent cartridges to appeal to a person’s senses.
“Our approach is to augment beverage flavor experience by overlaying external sensory stimuli,” said lead author Dr. Nimesha Ranasinghe. “For example, in the ‘vocktail’ we overlay color, taste and smell sensations to create an adjustable flavor experience.”
Dr. Ranasinghe explained that flavor, which is how we primarily perceive food, is accomplished through the use of the senses.
“Therefore, by changing the color of the drink, using a different smells and changing the taste through electricity, we are able to simulate the flavor of a drink, without it actually changing the liquid,” she said.
The virtual cocktail appeals to the senses of sight, smell, and taste through the use of a smartphone application. With the touch of a button, users can change the simulated drink.
Colors which are projected from the base of the glass mimic the colors of actual alcoholic beverages, such as a maroon light for red wine and a bright orange light for a screwdriver.
The rim of the glass contains two electrode strips that emit electrical pulses onto the tongue to arouse the taste buds. 180 microamps correspond with a sour-flavored drink, 80 microamps induce a bitter flavor, and 40 microamps are used to imitate a salty taste.
In addition, the glass has scent cartridges which are connected to air pumps. Different scents are intended to fool the brain into believing that what you smell is what you are actually tasting.
The scientists are now working on ways to silently release the scents and also to increase the amount of smells which are available.
Dr. Ranasinghe acknowledged that the external stimulation of the senses is not the same as experiencing an actual drink, and she said that the team is “constantly conducting experiments to create an even more immersive experience.”
“We want to bring it to pubs and bars, but we need industry partners to bring it out of the lab and into reality,” said Dr. Ranasinghe.
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