Lemonade
How would you like to drink some virtual lemonade? Scientists in Singapore have worked out how to make plain water taste sour using electricity and LEDsiStock

Scientists from the National University of Singapore have found a way to trick people into believing that they are drinking lemonade instead of water, plus they managed to send this experience virtually over the internet.

It might sound like divine providence, but the scientists accomplished this feat simply using electricity and light. The researchers used an RGB colour sensor and a pH sensor to detect the exact colour and acidity of freshly-made lemonade, according to the New Scientist.

The data detected was encodes using an established communication protocol and then sent wirelessly to a special tumbler of water located in a different location.

Defying the law of "fizzics"

The tumbler is unusual because it contains an electrode around the rim that stimulates the user's taste buds by sending out electrical pulses, while yellow, white and green LED lights make the liquid look like lemonade.

The electrode decodes the taste data and sends a specific pulse of electricity designed to make the tongue think that it is tasting something sour, but you have to lay your tongue over the rim of the tumbler in a specific way.

The researchers used a range of real and virtual lemonades that were either cloudy white, green or yellow in colour, and they got 13 people to test out the drinks.

The scientists found that while people detected that the real lemonade tasted more sour than the simulated version, when it came to the cloudy lemonade, they perceived that the water in the tumbler was more sour due to the brightness of the LEDs.

Their paper, entitled "Virtual Lemonade: Let's Teleport Your Lemonade!" was presented at the Conference on Tangible, Embedded and Embodied Interaction in Yokohama, Japan on Monday 23 March.

The researchers hope that the technology they have developed could be used to improve health as a replacement for sugary drinks by tricking the brain while the person is drinking plain water.

The research was led by Nimesha Ranasinghe, who has also previously worked on developing a digital lollipop that when placed on the tongue, uses electrical stimulation to simulate a variety of different taste sensations.