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A student demonstrating the device. Reuters

Imagine watching a Whopper commercial on TV. The next thing you know, you’re tasting the Whopper by licking your TV. Sounds kind of gross, but when you think about it, it’s exciting, at least technologically.

This is thanks to a Japanese professor, who has created a prototype “lickable” TV screen capable of imitating food flavors. And it’s also another key step toward establishing a multi-sensory viewing experience — an important advancement especially during the COVID-19 era as it can give people a novel way to engage with the outside world.

Taste the virtual reality

The device is appropriately named Taste the TV (TTTV). It employs a carousel of ten flavor canisters that spray in tandem to produce the taste of a specific food. Then, the flavor sample rolls on hygienic film over a flat TV screen for you to try, and enjoy.

Meiji University professor Homei Miyashita told Reuters that his goal “is to make it possible for people to have the experience of something like eating at a restaurant on the other side of the world, even while staying at home.”

A New Kind of TV Can Mimic Delicious Flavors. When You Lick It?
A canister of TTTV. Source: Reuters

The gadget was created thanks to the work of Miyashita and his team of about 30 students, who have managed to create numerous flavor-related devices. They have even developed a fork that makes food more delicious, as well as a “lickable screen” device capable of recreating taste sensations linked to food when it comes into contact with a human tongue. The latest device, the TTTV prototype, was built by the professor himself over the past year, and he says building a commercial version would cost him roughly 100,000 yen ($875).

A New Kind of TV Can Mimic Delicious Flavors. When You Lick It?
Professor Homei Miyashita fills flavor canisters. Source: Reuters

The device was demonstrated by Meiji student Yuki Hou for reporters. According to Reuters, she informed the screen that she wanted to try sweet chocolate, and the flavor jets responded by sprinkling the sample onto a plastic sheet, which she then proceeded to taste. “It’s kind of like milk chocolate,” she said. “It’s sweet like a chocolate sauce.”

A New Kind of TV Can Mimic Delicious Flavors. When You Lick It?
The student trying out the device. Source: Reuters

Aside from letting you enjoy the delightful taste of dripping ice cream without making a mess, the “lickable” TV could make distance learning easier for sommeliers and cooks, and see potential application in tasting games and quizzes. Taking the device a step further, Miyashita says he has also been in talks with companies about adopting his spray technology for other applications such as a gadget that can add a pizza or chocolate flavor to a slice of toasted bread.

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