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Losing our brains with disruptive technologies (IX): Tasting with Multisensory Flavor Augmentation?

Squirrel Surprise

“Surpris par un écureuil”. Original aquarelle by Eleonora Escalante. Size: 50cm x 35 cm. Watercolor paper Guarro Canson 210 GSM. If you wish to buy it, contact me, please.

Have a beautiful Wednesday. Several things have shocked our world lately, the Wuhan Coronavirus in China has taken the lives of more than 100 people, a virus which may spread out of control if China and all countries on earth do not coordinate the efforts to stop it. A horrible helicopter accident caused that Kobe Bryant and her daughter left his treasured family before the time was right; and sadly, Professor Clayton Christensen also passed away leaving his family and his precious Harvard Community because of leukemia. Professor Christensen was one of the strategy masters who coined the word “disruption” during this century.  My heartfelt condolences for such irreversible losses to those who appreciated them with love. These tragic and unfortunate reports are always surprising to us.

Furthermore the last introduction, I hope to dazzle you again today, as the little squirrel from my last painting.  Today’s topic is the last one to consider when it comes to technologies that are related to or affecting our eat-drink (EA) activities as human beings.

Losing Our Brains with Disruptive Technologies Outline 29janvier2020
Before starting, let´s frame what we will discover today. I will not consider the technologies related to the dental or odontology science or those created to overcome any type of disabilities or sicknesses related to our mouth or tracheal systems. Those technologies will be explored in our chapter dedicated to health or our “cure” activities in some weeks from now (week 8 of the saga).

Today´s technologies are affiliated to our taste sense, or flavor perception connected to enhance or improve the human-food interaction design. I will base my thoughts on a paper written by Velasco, Obris, Petit, and Spence “Multisensory Technology for Flavor Augmentation”(30 January 2018). As usual, I have provided the link below.

According to this group of experts from the UK: “There is growing interest in the development of new technologies that capitalize on our emerging understanding of the multisensory influences on flavor perception in order to enhance human-food interaction design. There is a connection between the role of (extrinsic) visual, auditory, and haptic/tactile elements in modulating flavor perception and more generally, our food and drink experiences”.

What is Multisensory Flavor Perception?
The International Standards Organization (ISO 5492, 1992, 2008) has defined the definition of flavor as “Complex combination of the olfactory, gustatory and trigeminal sensations perceived during the tasting. The flavor may be influenced by tactile, thermal, painful and/or kin-aesthetic effects.” The last definition tells us that tasting doesn´t happen in isolation of other senses.
Let´s continue. According to Charles Spence and his research about cognitive neuroscience literature, Multisensory Flavor Perception is nothing else than multiple senses intrinsic factors (vision, hearing, touch) integrated with the taste sense to the flavor perception, PLUS the incorporation of a extrinsic factors of social contextual experience and the atmospheric or environment effects which ultimately impact on the flavor experience of tasting. In one phrase, we must understand that the taste sense doesn´t work isolated merely from what happens on the tongue. For humans, eating and drinking are among life’s most enjoyable experiences. Hence, multi-sensory technologies are those which are designed to stimulate the human senses, allowing researchers to control the different inputs that accompany a given multisensory flavor.

Our brain is tricked with multisensory flavor perception technology systems capable of augmenting or diminishing or altering the flavoring acumen, which ultimately can impact what people choose to eat and drink, how they perceive the ensuing flavor experience, and how much they ultimately end-up consuming. However, the researchers hope that multisensory technologies might inspire tomorrow’s practitioners to (1) modify flavor perception and experiences; (2) nudge people toward healthier food behaviors; (3) facilitate food choice before ordering/buying; (4) make dining more entertaining.

These research authors have introduced to us, the existing representative examples of these technologies (2018):

Multisensory Technology for Flavor Augmentation: A Mini Review

TABLE 1. Examples of multisensory technologies for flavor augmentation based on extrinsic cues associated with the flavor and food/drink experiences. Source:

The UK authors state that the usage of these technologies may be considered by key players/influences of the food and drink industry, for example, chefs, culinary artists, bartenders, experiential brand event managers, and restaurants. Nevertheless, there are multiple challenges ahead, particularly the need for long-term follow-up investigations, as most of the research examples have been based on a one-off, small scale studies (e.g., small sample sizes with limited experimental designs). In other words, these technologies are still in a pre-kindergarten state. In addition, they advise that multisensory flavor experiences which incorporate technology require time and a multidisciplinary approach.

Another group of researchers from Italy (Niewiadomski, Ceccaldi, Huisman, Gualtiero Volpe, and Mancini) wrote just recently a paper named “Computational Commensality: From Theories to Computational Models for Social Food Preparation and Consumption in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)”. These Italian researchers have coined a new concept: “Computational Commensality,” that is, the technology which computationally addresses various social aspects of food and eating; or the use of interactive technologies to improve mealtimes considering the inherently social nature of food consumption. The term commensality is a unique word used by the Italian team, which I will respect for the sake of their thoughtful article.

Commensal means sharing a meal.

Given the importance of food consumption, researchers in human-computer interaction (HCI) and artificial intelligence (AI) have recently started to address how interactive technologies can improve mealtimes. Computational Commensality can be used to enhance social dining or using tele-dining technology to enable social interaction between people who do not share the same physical space.

The Italian authors introduce a list of existing or state of the art technologies or ideas from other researchers related to eating and drinking, with the announcement that the Food and Eating Activities Technologies (F&EA) has just recently begun (2019). They did an effort to classify them in the following groups (see the figure below):

There are some books from other authors that have been indicated and cited repeatedly by the latter two researcher groups (The British and the Italian referred above). Please,  I have not been able to read the following books yet. But I share them here if you wish to know more about these matters:

Strategic reflections:
Once you read the state of the art research papers available at public domain on the internet, and without judging the latter discoveries in relation to technologies applied to flavor and taste, I am always shocked to perceive the non-ending avalanche of new ideas in relation to tasting and F&EA activities. I would recommend to pause, take a deep breath, go for walks under the forests daily; before proceeding further. Take it easy, please.  The longer time that researchers take to think and use their brains to discern which technologies are a “no”, or a “maybe” or a “yes subject to ethical standards”, the better it is for our societies. If technologies are not bioethically allowed, it is easier to dismiss them at the concept stage. We need to prevent collateral damages.

Every time our brain is “tricked” to perceive what is not reality, we are damaging our cerebrum evolution process. If inventors continue to leverage the power of virtual and digital technologies applied to our senses without the purpose to cure or heal those who need to be healed, we are acting ethically incorrect against ourselves and the next generations to come. By building these disruptive technologies without an ethical roadmap, inevitably with time and the usage of them, we will dumb our brains. We will start a regression into our process of tasting. If we don´t stop the direction of our creativity in relation to Artificial Intelligence-Machine Learning when it comes to multisensory flavor technologies, be sure those devices or gadgets or tiny chips inserted in our tongues or the rest of sense organs, will become the new drug of the next generations. In the end, our world will perish because of a lack of intelligence to discern what is virtual or what is real.

Let´s try to pause to invent tech that tricks our brains to become feeble-minded or dumb, particularly in terms of multiple sensory experiences.

In my next publication, we will start with the disruptive technologies applied to activities related to Think-Work-Invest-Produce. Thank you for reading to me.

brain gyphy

Source of information utilized to write this article:

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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