Future of Drink: An Augmented Reality Experience

By using immersive technologies and sensors, Vocktail simulates the taste, smell, and look of a real cocktail.
Susan Fourtané
Vocktail-Virtual Cocktail Susan Fourtané 

We have Virtual Reality (VR) and virtual worlds. Next, we need virtual drinks, virtual food, and the possibility to use the technology in some cool applications adding the potential of improving people's sensations. 


The combination of visual, auditory, and haptic feedback media helps in the creation of a truly immersive Virtual Reality experience. Add to the mix smell and taste and the result is a total VR experience upgrade.

Having that mix in mind, the Virtual Cocktail -or Vocktail- and the Vocktail Bar were born. The world's first of its kind technology focuses on two of our senses: Smell and taste. It highlights how by manipulating the senses and playing tricks on the brain it's possible to experience some flavors without secondary effects. 

The virtual experience and the future of drinks

Imagine enjoying your favorite drinks without having to give up driving after a night at the bar or a hangover next morning. Future applications for this technology include adding a salty taste to food without adding any salt. Or enjoying something sweet with no sugar added. 

Something futuristic-like perhaps, as if it were taken right from Star Trek's Ten Forward observation lounge in the 24th century. 

Star Trek TNG 24th century drinks virtual cocktail
Source: Memory Alpha Wikia/Star Trek TNG

Virtual Reality, immersive technologies, and a vocktail 

Scientists from Japan's Keio University and the National University of Singapore Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments (CUTEcenter developed the virtual cocktail immersive VR technology and published their research paper, Vocktail: A Virtual Cocktail for Pairing Digital Taste, Smell, and Color Sensations at the ACM DL Digital Library. 

"Our approach is to augment the beverage flavor experience by overlaying external sensory stimuli," said lead researcher Dr. Nimesha Ranasinghe.

"Our approach is to augment the beverage flavor experience by overlaying external sensory stimuli."

By using immersive technologies and sensors, Vocktail simulates the taste, smell, and look of a real cocktail. The technology uses a scent that is pumped into the glass, a LED light that emits a range of colors, and two silver electrodes located on the rim of the glass. The electrodes use electrical currents on the tongue to stimulate salty or sour sensations depending on your preference and choice of vocktail. 

virtual cocktail-vocktail
Image Source: Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering 

The combination of signals tricks the brain into receiving a full and authentic taste sensation. You could be drinking sparkling water and your brain could be sensing a gin a tonic.

The benefits of this technology range from simple social applications where it's possible to create custom flavors and share them with friends through social media to medical scenarios where illness or old age restrict your diet. The technology could make it possible to enjoy the flavors that we love without having adverse reactions to actual ingredients.

virtual cocktail - cocktail
Source: Susan Fourtané for Interesting Engineering

The virtual cocktail glass lets you change the flavor of your drink using an application on your smartphone customizing drinks and tastes. A glass of water can be changed into a mojito or a glass of wine at the press of a button.

Vocktail: How the virtual cocktail works

Smell: The 3D-printed glass houses three scent cartridges connected to micro air-pumps. Through the pumps, smell molecules are released and this changes your perception of the beverage's flavor. 

Taste: On the rim of the glass are two electrode strips. They send electric pulses into your tongue to stimulate your taste buds. A jolt of 180 microamps mimics a sour taste, while 80 microamps gives a bitter taste, and 40 microamps a salty taste.

Sight: The Vocktail also tricks the brain using an LED light system at the base of the glass. The color corresponds to the drink. So, a maroon light corresponds to a red wine, for instance.

The glass' three sensory components are controlled via a smartphone application. The software can combine a number of smells, colors and tastes, the Vocktail glass can create and enhance almost any flavor. A lemon scent will trick your brain into believing it's tasting a lemon-flavored drink.

Teleporting virtual lemonade 

Previously, Dr. Nimesha Ranasinghe's team had developed a virtual lemonade which flavor could be shared over the Internet and through a smartphone application. If this sounds like science fiction, wait a few years. Teleporting and replicating are going to be an integral part of the kitchen in the smart home. 

The science behind the virtual cocktail

Virtual Cocktail an interactive drinking device that digitally simulates multisensory flavor experiences. The Vocktail system utilizes three common sensory modalities, taste, smell, and visual to create virtual flavors and augment the existing flavors in the drink.

The customized virtual flavor sensations are configured via Bluetooth. The full system consists of a special cocktail glass that is seamlessly fused into a 3D printed structure, which holds the electronic control module, three scent cartridges, and three micro air-pumps.

vocktail virtual cocktail VR
Source: Future Tech Now Show

According to the research paper's abstract, when a user drinks from the system, the visual (RGB light projected on the beverage), the taste (electrical stimulation at the tip of the tongue), and the smell stimuli (emitted by micro air-pumps) are all combined to create a virtual flavor sensation, thus altering the flavor of the original beverage.

The researchers experimented and investigated the influences of the multimodal stimuli on the perception of virtual flavors in terms of the five primary tastes i.e. salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. According to the researchers, the results suggest that the combination of these stimuli delivers richer flavor experiences, as compared to separately simulating individual modalities. It was also an indicator of the types of pairings that can be formed between smell and electric taste stimuli.

The Vocktail Bar was open to the public at the Future Tech Now show in London, England and is one of the most popular Virtual Reality innovations that have been introduced this year.