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New device would let you taste food from TV shows and commercials as you're watching them

Emily Brown

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New device would let you taste food from TV shows and commercials as you're watching them

Featured Image Credit: The University of Warwick / FOX via Getty Images

If you live in fear of food FOMO, then you'll be glad to know it could soon be a thing of the past thanks to the creation of an incredible device which can create any flavor you desire.

It's the news fans of The Great British Baking Show have been waiting for.

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If you're a regular viewer of the show, I'm sure you'll know how frustrating it is to not be able to taste all the impressive creations the amateur bakers come up with.

But what if you could try all the pies, cakes and biscuits, not just by picking the same types up at the store afterwards, but by getting the tastes on your tongue at the very same time as Paul Hollywood?

Well that soon could be a very real possibility with the help of a new device which has the capability to take the flavor makeup of any food, and recreate it in liquid form.

The device is currently being tested by Professor Alan Chalmers, of Warwick University in the UK.

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Professor Alan Chalmers has been likened to Willy Wonka. Credit: Alan Chalmers
Professor Alan Chalmers has been likened to Willy Wonka. Credit: Alan Chalmers

Chalmers told UNILAD: "[On The Great British Baking Show], you're watching these judges enjoying themselves, but what does it taste like?

"You could [have] those recipes in your home device. And when the judge tries it, you can a little squirt of it yourself.

"The flavor that goes in their mouth has got a number, you simply recreate that number on your device."

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Explaining how the device works, Chalmers said humans experience flavor based on five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savoriness); as well as incorporating mouthfeel and aroma.

"Every flavor is a point in flavor space," Chalmers said. "And you can describe that point by its taste, its aromas, and its mouthfeel."

Think of it like a color wheel - you could move your cursor around and watch the color change from one to the next, but if you were to just click at a certain point, you'd get one exact color, made up of a certain combination of the others.

The device mixes chemicals to create flavors. Credit: The University of Warwick
The device mixes chemicals to create flavors. Credit: The University of Warwick
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Instead of blues, greens and reds making up the colors, we have sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, etcetera, making up the flavors.

Chalmers explained that food agency approved food-safe chemicals can then be used to represent each of the components, and make up the exact flavor that you're looking for.

By adjusting the levels of the chemicals, the device could move from delivering liquid that tastes like a shrimp cocktail, to Fettuccine alfredo, to chocolate cake, giving you an entire three-course meal in just a few sips.

Admittedly, it wouldn't fill you up, but it could definitely give you an idea of what you're in the mood for when it comes to choosing where you go for dinner.

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The device could help reduce food waste. Credit: Alan Chalmers
The device could help reduce food waste. Credit: Alan Chalmers

However, developing such amazing tech takes time for the researchers, so Chalmers is currently focusing his resources on testing the device's capability for early Alzheimer's detection.

He explained: "Basically, if you've got any form of neurodegeneration, it affects your ability to taste or smell.

"So if we can give you two flavors, and a person of your demographic - your age, your sex and your ethnicity - can tell the difference, but you can't, you may have a problem."

Flavor testing has the capability to detect a potential problem years before similar issues might become apparent in a memory test, giving people with Alzheimer's a chance of receiving treatment earlier, and potentially delaying the disease with new drugs that are becoming available.

So while the health tests are taking precedent for now, Chalmers has suggested that the flavor device could become as common as printers or smart speakers in as little as a year - all they need is a bit of investment.

The device can create any flavor. Credit: The University of Warwick
The device can create any flavor. Credit: The University of Warwick

"It needs a bit of work to go from a proof of concept, to commercial prototype, to a product, but if we get the money we'll do it," he explained.

In day-to-day life, the device could not only stop you from getting food FOMO, but it could also prevent food waste by allowing you to do a taste test of foods before you buy them.

Just imagine - you're wandering around the store and you spot an intriguing new flavor of chips.

Rather than handing over your hard-earned cash only to be disappointed, you could scan a QR-code on the product and be delivered a taste of the food after the device establishes its makeup.

The device could let you taste food before you buy it. Credit: Pixabay
The device could let you taste food before you buy it. Credit: Pixabay

"If you imagine you've got your mobile phone, you just zap the QR code and you have a little device which sits in your mouth, [and you'll know] okay, yeah, I might like that," he said.

"You can effectively virtually try any product in the store to make sure you like it before you buy it; taste before you waste."

As technology advances, we could go beyond food that already exists into an entire new world of fantasy food.

All authors or filmmakers would need to do is imagine what their fantastical dishes taste like, then you could load up your device, and have whatever the characters are having.

It's safe to say, the device is a gamechanger - now we just need that missing element.

Chalmers joked: "If anyone's got any money out there, I'd be happy to work with them to make this happen."

Topics: Community, Technology, Food and Drink

Emily Brown
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