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Ready to lick your screen?

Yuki Hou, a student at Meiji University in Tokyo, demonstrates the Taste the TV lickable screen. Image credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

At a time when we are told to wear a mask, wash our hands carefully the idea of licking a screen at a restaurant doesn’t seem to be in synch with the time.

Yet, this is the idea, actually more than an idea, coming out of Tokyo Meiji University: want to feel the taste of a dish offered by a restaurant? Just lick the screen showing its photo!

If you have been to Japan you surely remember the restaurants’ windows showcasing the various menu items directly on dishes – shokuhin sampuru- (I have always wondered how they do that… in the beginning I thought they were real food covered with some sort of plastic, then I discovered they are sculptures tailor made for each restaurant by artists using polyvinyl chloride). Japan is world famous for the artistic way they have in displaying anything, starting for food on the plate (there is even the word for it: “plating“). Hence, it is not really surprising the search for further improving the shokuhin sampuru and what could be better than making you feel the taste of the food on the plate?

That is, I guess, what motivated researchers at the Meiji University in Tokyo to invent a film (thin layer of plastic containing micro dispensers filled with 10 different flavours that are released when you lick the screen over a specific image of food. The mixture of the flavours released is controlled by a computer that “knows” where you are licking are reacts accordingly. They have called the device “Taste the TV” and, really, the name says it all!

According to Homei Miyashita, the professor at Meiji University in Tokyo where the device was invented, at this time of COvid-19 when people may refrain from going to a restaurant, the possibility of liking their television screen (you overlay the film-device and connect it to your smartphone) would provide a sort fo fulfilment: Besides,, he is ready to point out, this would also let you taste food from Africa and anywhere else.  Actually there is much more involved in taste, the texture, the warmness, … that make me doubtful of the reality of the feeling. For sure it is a further step in the metaverse!

It feels both amazing and crazy to me! I cannot imagine myself liking a screen (or a restaurant window…) but I have to acknowledge the ingenuity of the researchers.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.