What kind of cookie do you want today? Almond, chocolate? Maybe a strawberry or tea-flavored biscuit? Researchers in Japan have created a virtual reality system that turns a plain old cookie into a cornucopia of looks and tastes.
The system works by fooling the eyes and nose with visions and scents that turn a bland, flat-baked treat into one of more than a half dozen styles of cookie.
To try it out, users don a high-tech skullcap outfitted with a camera, screen, and seven pump-driven tubes filled with scented air.
The system, called Meta Cookie, overlays images of several types of cookies on plain cookies piled on a plate. Once the user selects one, the system pumps air near the user's nose with the corresponding scent. The power of the scent is adjusted as the user brings the cookie closer to their mouth.
Upon taking a bite, the user really thinks the cookie is isn't just a bland treat, but whatever the system turned it into. The research team, led by Takuji Narumi at the University of Tokyo, report that users are regularly fooled by the system.
While the team doesn't yet have a commercial market for their system, one can imagine it as a way to appease a group of picky kids at snack time.
Tip o' the Log to Nic Halverson at Discovery News
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).