Virtual reality has been a realm typically explored with sight and sound. Recent innovations have delved into the world of virtual touch, but for the most part, experiencing virtual taste has remained largely unexplored. However, a team of researchers at the University of Tokyo are working to change that.
Takuji Narumi and her colleagues created a virtual reality system, dubbed Meta Cookie, that works with smell and sight to manipulate users' perceptions of the taste of a cookie. Participants wore a special mask that produces sights and smells and were given a plain cookie. They were shown an image of a certain type of cookie and then exposed to that scent. Researchers were able to choose from seven cookie scents, ranging from almond to strawberry to chocolate and maple.
When asked to describe what kind of cookie they believed they were eating, the subjects were regularly fooled by the virtual reality system. Despite eating a plain cookie, the olfactory and visual stimulation often caused subjects to believe they were eating, for example, a lemon-flavored cookie.
The cookie's texture does provide an undeniable advantage for users of Meta Cookie. Even though people were eating a cookie with no flavor, it still had the texture of the supposed cookie, making it difficult for a person to believe they were eating anything else.
While there is no word on any future commercial prospects for scent-based virtual reality systems, the technology behind Meta Cookie certainly makes mouths water.
Photo: The University of Tokyo/Takuji Narumi