The taste of electric currents (part 1 of 2)

It was sometime around 1752 that Johann Georg Sulzer decided (for reasons best known to himself) to put the tip of his tongue between two plates of (different) metal whose edges were in contact. The results were, quite literally, shocking. He’d not only inadvertently stumbled across one of the world’s first electrolytic batteries, but it was also completing a circuit via his tongue. With unignorable results. As if this wasn’t enough, at the same time he’d also experienced what was very probably the first instance of electro-gustation (electrically induced phantom flavour perception). “A pungent sensation, reminds me of the taste of green vitriol when I placed my tongue between these metals.” [was his alleged remark]

In the intervening 260+ years since then, research groups across the globe have made great strides in the field of electrically induced taste-sensations. Take for example the work of the Miyashita Laboratory at Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan. Where Hiromi Nakamura, along with Professor Homei Miyashita himself have been developing the idea of what they call ‘Augmented Gustation’. electric_chopsticksA paper from the authors, entitled ‘Augmented Gustation using Electricity’ was presented at the 2nd Augmented Human International Conference – AH’11 The team not only designed and tested the world’s first taste enhancing electric chopsticks (pictured), but also investigated a form of ‘taste communication’ between two (mildly) electrified people who complete a circuit by joining hands whilst drinking from a specially constructed electric cup. “The goal of our system – ” say the team “- is to obtain a new layer of tongue that can detect tastes that we could not perceive previously.“

Also see (taste related) : Tastes like Trombones and A Taste of Protons