TastyFloats is a "contactless food delivery system" that uses ultrasound to raise bits of food and droplets of drink to your mouth without any utensils at all. While this method to levitate small objects is well known, what's fascinating is that a small scientific study shows that the levitated food apparently tastes better. Researchers from the University of Sussex describe TastyFloats and their sensory experiment in a scientific paper they'll present at this month's ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces conference. From IEEE Spectrum:
The researchers experimented with three of the five basic tastes: sweet (a positive taste), bitter (a negative taste), and umami, which is a savory taste that can also enhance other flavors. The researchers asked a group of volunteers to test TastyFloats with the three basic tastes, delivered in three different volumes (5 microliters, 10µL, and 20µL), with tongue delivery via pipette as a non-levitating control. Participants were asked to identify each droplet, and then rated each on intensity, pleasantness, and satisfaction.
The most significant difference between levitated tastes and tastes delivered via pipette was in intensity: sweet tastes were more intense and recognizable, while bitter tastes were harder to distinguish. The researchers suggest that this might make TastyFloats more suitable for dessert delivery, although it could also be used to make bitter but healthy foods (like broccoli) more palatable to people who wouldn't otherwise enjoy them.