1217CTT tast

 National University of Singapore researchers unveiled a taste simulation device at ACM Multimedia conference in Barcelona, Spain, in November. (Credit: You Tube.)

According to a factbook (pdf) from the United States Department of Agriculture, the average per capita of “caloric sweetener” in the United States in 2010 was a little over 152 pounds. 152 pounds!

Based on the treats in the break room here in the office and my kitchen at home, my guess is that about half of that is consumed between October 31 and January 1. By January 2, of course, we have resolved to eliminate excess from our lives and to lose ten or more pounds before summer.

Those 152 pounds of sugary stuff are an easy place to look for calories to cut, but cutting them sure is hard. Cutting calories of any flavor is tough!

Investigators at National University of Singapore reported recently on a “taste simulator” that uses electrodes to simulate flavors on the tongue. According to a New Scientist press release, “Signals that reproduce the four well-known major taste components – salt, sweet, sour, bitter – are transmitted through a silver electrode touching the tip of the tongue. The taste receptors are fooled by a varying alternating current and slight changes in temperature controlled by semiconductor elements that heat and cool very rapidly.”

The researchers say the device could be used to add taste sensations to gaming activities, and I can imagine marketers drooling over new ways to hand out a sample.

More practically, it could be used to help solve serious health problems, such as obesity and Alzheimer’s disease, and it could open up the world of food to people living with restricted diets like diabetes or gluten intolerance.

It sounds like something to look into, but not until January 2 for me.

Happy holidays!