A couple of years ago, we wrote about “digital taste interface” that worked using silver electrodes. Now, it appears that technology has advanced to the next stage: a prototype electric fork that uses electrical stimulation to simulate salty tastes.
Developed using technology from the University of Tokyo’s Rekimoto Lab, the fork incorporates an electrical circuit and rechargeable battery into the handle. When the prongs of the fork are inserted into the mouth, the user presses a button that delivers an electric current through the food to the tongue. The tongue reacts to this stimuli, telling the brain that it tastes salt.
The perceived level of saltiness differs between individuals, based on variables such as age (older people tend to have a diminished sense of taste) and eating habits (i.e. someone accustomed to a high-sodium diet may be less affected). For this reason, the strength of the fork’s electric current can be adjusted using a rotary switch on the handle. Diners using the fork report that increasing the current causes the taste sensation to graduate from salty to more sour, and from sour to an unpleasant metallic taste.
The prototype fork was created as a promotion for a “No Salt Restaurant” project to offer a salt-free full-course meal. If the prototype is fully commercialized, it could be beneficial for people trying to maintain a low-sodium diet.