Japanese scientists are chewing over an ‘electric gum’ that never loses flavor

A device which zaps your tongue with electricity sounds more like some cruel and unusual torture method than it does something folks might do for enjoyment. But you’d be wrong — at least when it comes to the electric tongue zapper created by researchers at Meiji University in Japan. They’ve been working on technology they call “unlimited electric gum,” able to electrically simulate flavor sensations when a person chews a stick of specially created “gum.” The results make possible not only gum which never loses its flavor but, at least in theory, also open up the possibility of creating any flavor chewing gum you want to sample at that instant.

This is achieved using something called the piezoelectric effect, a phenomenon in which certain materials generate an electric charge in response to applied mechanical stress. The word is derived from the Greek word word “squeeze” or “press.” In this case, the piezoelectric effect means that when a piece of the researchers’ gum (in reality, a piezoelectric element and electrodes, wrapped up in a thin plastic film) is chewed, a small current is created. This then fools the chewer’s tongue into experiencing different tastes.

You shouldn’t expect Juicy Fruits or spearmint tastes just yet, however. When the device was tested out at an event in Japan earlier this year, the test subjects reported that the gum tasted salty or bitter. They likened it to the experience of chewing niboshi, dried infant sardines which are frequently eaten either as snacks or used for seasoning in soup stocks. That doesn’t necessarily sound all that appealing, but there’s certainly scope for expansion.

The researchers hope that they will eventually be able to induce sour, sweet and umami (a savory taste found in foods like fermented soy products, cheese, and shiitake mushrooms) taste sensations as well. The chewing gum was recently presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Germany.

It’s not just Meiji University that is focused on creating these kind of futuristic simulated foodstuff, either. Dr. Nimesha Ranasinghe, currently director of the Multisensory Interactive Media Lab at the University of Maine, has created a number of similarly innovative projects — ranging from a programmable cocktail glass to futuristic chopsticks able to simulate flavor by zapping your tongue with electrodes.

Emerging Tech

Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

Until drones start vaping, you're unlikely to see anything more millennial than a recent contest in Japan in which robots competed to pull off some seriously impressive bottle-flipping feats.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best tech gear and gadgetry that survived Shark Tank

The television show "Shark Tank" has churned out quite a few strange, interesting, and downright awesome products -- so we rounded up some of the best ones for your perusal. Enjoy!
Gaming

The best free-to-play games you can play right now

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially-popular League of Legends.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Emerging Tech

Students who designed transforming smart home will compete in Solar Decathalon

Modular smart homes are all the rage, and now some students from Virginia Tech are putting their money on their FutureHAUS, a modular, solar-powered, transforming smart home they're taking to the Solar Decathlon in Dubai.
Emerging Tech

Hotter than the sun: Chinese fusion reactor claims breakthrough

China’s “artificial sun” has reached a temperature of 180 million ºF with a heating power of 10 megawatts -- six times hotter than the center of the sun. The achievement could mark progress towards fusion as a clean energy source.
Emerging Tech

Hope it doesn’t melt! Rocket to ISS carries vital supplies — including ice cream

A rocket has launched over Virginia's eastern shore, carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Inside the spacecraft are supplies for the ISS itself and the crew onboard, such as scientific equipment and food.
Emerging Tech

‘Super-Earth’ discovered orbiting nearby star

Astronomers have discovered a large planet circling a sun nearby to Earth called Barnard's Star. The potential new planet is thought to be cold and icy and has a size of around 3.2 times the Earth.
Emerging Tech

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully tests its asteroid-sampling arm

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, launched in September 2016, is closing in on its target of the Bennu asteroid. The craft has now unfurled its robotic arm, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and tested it successfully.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…