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Simulating Taste - the last VR Frontier

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August 8, 2003

Saturday August 9, 2003

Taste is the last frontier of virtual reality according to the inventors of the Food Simulator- a haptic interface that mimics the taste, sound and feeling of chewing real food. Currently at demonstration stage, the project by researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan utilizes a mechanical linkage designed to fit to the mouth that simulates force according to the type of food and delivers the chemical sensation of taste via an in-built micro injector.

All three aspects of the Food Simulator are synchronized - a force sensor is activated to coincide with the chemical taste injection and the sound of biting is also transmitted via a bone vibration microphone.

The force mechanism is configured to match the force required to bite real food of varying textures and consistencies and the sensation of taste is synthesized from five basic elements - sweet, sour, bitter, salty and the so-called "fifth-element of taste", Umami.

The Simulator is the creation of Hiroo Iwata, Hiroaki Yano, Naohiro Uemura and Tetsuro Moriya featured in the SIGGRAPH 2003 Emerging Technologies Submissions. Practical applications for the first-of-its-kind device - elderly people can practice biting to strengthen their muscles using low resistance setting, new foods can be designed using the simulator as a research tool and it also opens another door into a virtual future that's evolving fast.

Follow the links below for more on the Food Stimulator and other VR devices.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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