Researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan have developed a flavour-enhancing fork that uses electricity to convey different taste sensations while eating.
The rechargeable device can deliver three different levels of mild electric current to the tongue, which stimulates the taste buds to create the sensation of saltiness or sourness. The fork channels the current to the tongue via the food, so it’s not necessary for the tongue to make direct contact with the prongs.
Hiromi Nakamura from the Rekimoto Lab led the research at the University of Tokyo. She hopes it will help people cut down their salt intake, and benefit those on restricted diets for health reasons. However, some method of calibration would be required if the device is to become commercially available, as flavour perception by electric stimulation varies according to age and eating habits.
A prototype was designed for Tokyo’s No Salt Restaurant, which aims to serve entirely salt-free meals. On March 24 2016, volunteers were treated to a saltless, five-course dinner, including pork cutlets and fried rice. Participants reported a noticeable change in flavour while using the fork. The relatively simple device only costs around $18 to make, but the lab is yet to announce whether it will be turned into a commercial product.
As previously covered, even non-smart cutlery has an effect on the way in which taste is perceived, and smart cutlery might have a place in innovative multisensory dining experiences. For more on smart tableware, see Food Presentation Trends. For more on stimulating sensorial devices, including scent-emitting cutlery, see our Sensory Science report.