We’ve all been there — watching late-night TV and a commercial comes on for something that looks positively drool-worthy. Maybe it’s gooey pizza, a frosty beer, or steaming baby back ribs. We think “how I wish I could get my hands on that right now” but instead settle for a bowl of cereal or some crackers and cheese.
A Japanese professor wants to change that, and has developed a prototype for a lickable — yes, lickable — television screen device that can imitate food flavours.
According a report from Reuters, the device is called Taste the TV (TTTV) and it uses a carousel of flavour canisters that release in combination to mimic the tastes of particular foods.
“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,” Homei Miyashita, a professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, told Reuters, adding that it could be beneficial for people who want to interact with foods from around the world during the pandemic.
Miyashita says the device would cost users about US$875. He developed the prototype over the past year.
The device works by spraying flavour from 10 canisters onto a sheet of film that is rolled over the TV or tablet screen, which users can lick.
According to a demonstration video, researchers blended various foods and used sensors to “taste” them.
The video shows other ways the TTTV could be used. For instance, you could add flavouring to toast or crackers, or make one food taste like something else entirely.
The canisters can spray different flavours, which mix them together to create the desired taste profile.
Miyashita told Reuters the device could also be helpful for distance learning classes for cooks or sommeliers, or could be used for tasting games and quizzes.
One Meiji student demonstrated TTTV for reporters, telling the screen she wanted to taste sweet chocolate. After a few tries, an automated voice repeated the order and flavour jets spritzed a sample onto a plastic sheet.
“It’s kind of like milk chocolate,” she said. “It’s sweet like a chocolate sauce.”