Sweetness, one of the five basic taste sensations, is typically produced by sugar dissolving on the tongue. However, excess consumption of sugar and sugar-based foods or beverages can have a detrimental effect on a human's health and lead to major health concerns, including obesity and diabetes. By virtually simulating the sensation of sweetness, we will be able to introduce the sensation as a digitally controllable media and augment real-world flavors by virtually overlaying the simulated sweetness while users consume food and beverages.
As a solution, we have developed a digital instrument to simulate sweetness on the tongue. The proposed method is built on existing research that has highlighted the possibility of generating taste sensations by rapidly heating and cooling the human tongue. Prior work has shown that controlled thermal stimulation not only simulates sweetness, but also enhances the perception of sweetness on the tongue due to the activation of TRPM5 ion channels, which have a key role in triggering the human perception of sweetness. This phenomenon will enable consumption of reduced sugar food and beverages while maintaining their palatability.