Digital Dining With Charged Chopsticks

You step out of the audience onto a stage, and a hypnotist hands you a potato chip. The chip is salty and crunchy and you are convinced the chip is genuine. Now, replace the ordinary potato chip with a low-sodium version and replace the hypnotist with an Arduino. [Nimesha Ranasinghe] at the University of Maine’s Multisensory Interactive Media Lab wants to trick people into eating food with less salt by telling our tongues that we taste more salt than the recipe calls for with the help of electrical pulses controlled by everyone’s (least) favorite microcontroller.

Eating Cheetos with chopsticks is a famous lifehack but eating unsalted popcorn could join the list if these chopsticks take hold and people want to reduce their blood pressure. Salt is a flavor enhancer, so in a way, this approach can supplement any savory dish.

Smelling is another popular machine hack in the kitchen, and naturally, touch is popular beyond phone screens. You have probably heard some good audio hacks here, and we are always seeing fascination stuff with video.

14 thoughts on “Digital Dining With Charged Chopsticks

    1. My thought too… unless they regulate the current enough to change the acidity-effect. Then how about the electrolysis of the saliva between the probes?

      Also, I can’t go on a low/no salt diet… too low of sodium or potassium sources in my diet and I get frightening heart palpitations, blackouts/head-rushes (“Stood up too fast” effects) and generally lowered concentration (i.e. can’t think straight, lisping, stuttering). Too much potassium intake at once sends my heart racing during common exercises (i.e. walking… I walk fast). I then eat some sodium-salt containing food to counteract. I only eat high potassium foods if I’ve had a small palpitation episode (lasts for more than 3-beat cycles).

      There is no one solve-all golden-diet for everyone. Yet all these “eat healthy” campaigns think there is.

      1. This… it particularly pisses me off when “salt substrate” foods like chips don’t have much salt in any more when I need some salt, there’s already low salt and no freaking salt versions of these for the whiners.

        1. Yh, I’ve talked about this with doctors… I went into the walk-in center when I had a longer than usual episode (Before I tried the dietary changes) and they left me waiting for 6 hours before seeing me… by then the circulatory system was at rest, their (cardiogram?) machine showed no symptoms to them…
          I always get “Nothing wrong with ya” with everything from most doctors (NHS are doing this to quite a few people I hear… probably the savings from brexit?) .

          I’ve had mild pressure drops since about 12 years old. Things that affect me are mainly a lack of sleep, dietary, over-exercising (I tend to push myself too hard when cycling to and from work). It worsened when I pushed myself to ride about 100 miles from town and another 100 miles back (split over two days though.).

          Also I went to the walk-in center once for some stitches for a deep cut on the hand from crashing into a guard rail (Brakes had a defect that caused the cables to unclip if pulled too hard).. The lady gave me the look of “You shouldn’t be alive” when taking my blood pressure and when I asked if everything was OK, she’d just told me I’m perfectly fine.

  1. Back when I was a UNIX sysadmin and pretty sedate and got pretty heavy. I tried eating with chopsticks to slow my intake down. That worked great for a week or so. I got really good with eating with chopsticks. A few job changes later and I was still doing it and I wound up in an office with a lot of Chinese guys. Even they were impressed.

    1. okay regdog, that’s an interesting approach.But apparently your body became immune to this “treatment”. Because as you wrote, you got pretty good at eating with chopsticks. But I wonder how the body would adapt when you eat with sticks that zap you at every byte.

      But regarding this project I wonder if this would make it, the concept is very interesting for various reasons. I’m sure it would be a pain (no pun intended) to get this trough all required certifications. As it must deal with electrical regulations and food regulations. If this really works, proves to be practical and if it catches then it could be a huge step in health improvement! Interesting stuff, thanks for posting!

      1. “But I wonder how the body would adapt when you eat with sticks that zap you at every byte.”
        Not sure about how the body would adapt, but I’m pretty sure your colleagues would not appreciate you throwing food everywhere with each bite :D

  2. I found a manuscript copy thanks to a certain raven with a key. Electrically, the tech is quite simple, using a pair of silver-coated (98% pure) electrodes to touch the tongue and a current source to stimulate the senses:

    – Sour taste: 180 uA current with PWM duty cycle of 70%.
    – Salty taste: 40 uA current with PWM duty cycle of 20%.

    They don’t mention the frequency used.

    They cited “Virtual ingredients for food and beverages to create immersive taste experiences”. That paper is more specific. It cites electrogustometry (that’s a hell of a word) research as showing a frequency range of 10-1000 Hz as best, and lists three tastes:

    – Sour: 120 uA current source with frequency of 600 Hz
    – Salty: 40 uA current source with frequency of 200 Hz
    – Bitter: 120 uA current source with frequency of 600 Hz, with “reversed polarity-anode at the bottom surface of the tongue”

    This paper used a similar concept of a pair of electrodes, but on a bottle and spoon. The spoon electrodes touched the top of the tongue, while the bottle had one electrode above the tongue and one below (so only the bottle could create the bitter taste).

    So, given how electrically simple this is, who wants to do a 555 timer version?

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