Device simulates food

August 13/20, 2003

Computers can simulate all manner of sights, sounds and physical sensations. Now they can add food to the list.

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have devised a food simulator that imparts the sounds, forces and tastes associated with eating real food.

The food sensor could be used to rehabilitate those, like the elderly, who have biting difficulties; it can impart the experience of biting difficulties to those who don't have them; it can allow people to have unusual food experiences like a cracker turning suddenly to gel; and it can be used to design new foods, according to the researchers.

The food simulator consists of a curved biting-force interface, a bone-vibration speaker that adds sound, a vaporizer that dispenses smells, and a microinjector that dispenses the five elements of basic taste -- sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

The forces and sounds are captured from real food. The real-life biting forces are measured with a film-like force sensor, and the real-life sounds are captured via a bone-vibration microphone.

The food simulator could be used in practical applications within a year, according to the researchers. They presented the work at the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group Graphics (Siggraph) 2003 conference in San Diego, July 27 to 31.

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