• The 8th Hyper Interdisciplinary Conference

Digest of the 8th Annual Meeting] Expanding the World of Taste with Technology


From left: Kiyoshi Toko, specially-appointed professor at Kyushu University, and Sho Sakurai, specially-appointed assistant professor at the University of Electro-Communications,
Satoshi Ijichi, Liberace (moderator), Professor Shinichi Ishikawa, Miyagi University

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Expanding the World of Taste with Technology



Today, research on "deliciousness" is advancing in various forms, including the use of taste and aroma sensors and VR. In this session, researchers working on cutting-edge research that provides clues to understanding the relationship between the five senses and deliciousness will discuss "what kind of food world will be born in the future" with the latest findings and technologies.


The 9th Annual Hyperdisciplinarity Conference will be held online on April 23, 2020.



I asked a Thai and a Singaporean what they thought of Okinawan soba. ......


Satoshi Ijichi, Liberace

With the cooperation of our session partner, Ezaki Glico, we will be holding this session on the theme of "The World of Taste Expanded by Technology. First, I will talk a little about my own research related to taste, and then I will talk to the three panelists who have come to speak with us. All three of you are doing very unique research, so I am sure that you will be able to hear valuable discussions from all of you. In the second half, we will discuss how far we can actually extend deliciousness through technology.


I am a member of the Agri-Garage Research Institute and the Educational Development Division of Livanes, and I have been studying taste since I was in college. When I was in high school, I was a member of the track team and had to restrict my weight. I wanted to eat good food if I was going to eat anyway, so I started eating all over the place. In the midst of all this, I began to question why humans get a sense of happiness when they eat good food, and I started researching the sense of taste.


At university, I joined a lab that studied the structure of sweetness receptors, or receptors that sense sweetness. There, I became involved in research on glycyrrhizic acid, a sweetener made from the root of a plant called licorice used in Chinese medicine and used in chewing gum and sausages. Glycyrrhizic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties and is used in shampoos and rinses, as well as in the medical field.


Glycyrrhizic acid is said to be 150 times sweeter than sugar, but by slightly changing the terminal structure, it is possible to increase the sweetness to 200 or 300 times. I have succeeded in raising the maximum sweetness to 1,200 times, and wrote a paper about it.


I joined RIVERNESS because I wanted to use what I had studied to help people through education, but I also wanted to "unravel the mechanism of deliciousness. I also wanted to "unravel the mechanism of deliciousness." Because LIVERNESS is a company that allows me to do many different things freely, I thought I could take a different approach from the research I had done at university.


To cite one example, we conducted research to promote the export of processed foods for an Okinawa Prefecture project. Okinawa wants to promote the export of processed foods made from local ingredients to Southeast Asia. We started with the idea that since there are many similarities in the natural environment and climate, they would sell well in Southeast Asia as well.


However, there are differences in tastes between Okinawans and people in Southeast Asia, so bringing the product as it is may not necessarily sell well. Conversely, if we can improve our products so that they taste good to people in Southeast Asia, we will have a better chance of success.


We therefore attempted to verify the difference between Okinawan food and local food by measuring the ingredients using a "taste sensor" developed by Dr. Toko of Kyushu University, who will speak later in this presentation. We wanted to find out what kind of ingredients the local people prefer and improve the food accordingly.


However, it is not enough to get close to local flavors. If you get too close to the local food, it will not be the same as the local food, and the people will lose the value of "eating something rare from abroad. So, how close should we make it? We tried to prepare a variety of different flavors and have local people try them, but this was not a simple task.


For example, I once had a group of people try Okinawan soba in Thailand and Singapore, and I was faced with an unexpected situation. I wanted to ask them about the difference in flavor of the soba sauce, but most of them pointed out the hardness of the noodles. They said that the noodles were too hard and not edible, or that they were not boiled enough. It was more like a storm of complaints.


In fact, over there, there is no sense of what we call "noodle strain" in Japan, and most of the noodles are very soft. This is why I felt more discomfort with the difference in the noodles than with the sauce.


This is an example of the difficulties caused by differences in food culture, but there are many other difficulties involved in the study of "deliciousness. For example, if you are full or sick, even delicious food does not taste good. Therefore, in surveys where we ask people to eat something and then ask their impressions, we need to know the physical condition of the subjects. Also, no matter how tasty the food is, people get bored if they eat it often, so it is necessary to consider whether or not they have eaten it recently.



Taste sensors revealed that "young people like bitter coffee.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

Today, I have invited three people who are conducting research on "deliciousness" from different perspectives. I am sure that all three of you are probably going through various hardships, so I would like to hear about them.


First, Dr. Kiyoshi Toko of Kyushu University, who is probably no stranger to the world of taste research. For those who do not know him, he is the first person in the world to develop a "taste sensor" to measure and quantify the sense of taste. The second is Dr. Sho Sakurai of the University of Electro-Communications, who is conducting research in the field of vision, which has a difficult relationship with taste. The second is Dr. Shinichi Ishikawa of Miyagi University, who has opened up a new field of molecular culinary science. Now, first of all, Dr. Toko, please welcome.


Kiyoshi Toko, Kyushu University

Nice to meet you, I am Toko of Kyushu University. I don't need to explain it now, but the way people perceive taste varies from person to person. A family eats the same food, but the younger brother says it tastes bitter and bad, while the older sister says it is not bitter at all. The mother says, "It tastes good as usual. This happens all the time. In short, taste is subjective.


We developed the "taste sensor" based on the idea that if we could objectively measure and quantify these tastes, something new might emerge. Using this sensor, the components of "taste" such as sourness, bitterness, sweetness, and saltiness can be expressed as numerical values.


We measured the "taste" of various foods with this "taste sensor.


(Pointing to the slide) First of all, this is a taste map of the world's beers. The horizontal axis is acidity, and the vertical axis is bitterness. Asahi's dry beer is here and Ebisu beer is here. Ebisu beer is still bitter. Next is wine. There are many kinds of wines, but to put it very simply, wines from this area in France have lingering astringency and no acidity, while inexpensive table wines from Japan specialize in acidity. I think some people can somewhat understand this. In any case, using a taste sensor, we can visually see the taste of food like this. So you can recognize the taste you feel with your tongue as a visual perception.


Next is cup noodles. This was a bit of a surprise, and we found that Japanese cup noodles are quite strong in flavor. It was much stronger than that of Vietnamese cup noodles. Japanese people, surprisingly, like strong flavors. Anyway, you might want to be careful about eating Japanese cup noodles too often, as they contain too much salt.


Next up is coffee. I don't know if you are aware of this, but roughly speaking, young people tend to prefer bitter coffee, while mature people prefer sour coffee. In fact, Starbucks coffee is quite bitter. It is obvious that Starbucks is conscious of the younger generation. It is the same at convenience stores, where most of the coffee is more bitter than acidic.


Today, Japan's population is aging at a tremendous rate. You could call it a super-aging society. This is why we need to seriously consider "nursing food. The reason for this is that nursing food is basically not tasty. This is natural, since the amount of sugar and salt is reduced, but I wonder if that is really a good thing. Since they have limited freedom of movement and enjoyment, at least the food they eat should be satisfying. That is why I believe that the creation of "delicious nursing food" will be a major theme in the future.


However, this is not an easy task. This is because superannuation is something that everyone is experiencing for the first time. We cannot apply the know-how developed by researchers, engineers, or craftsmen in the past. We must literally build from scratch.


This is where new technologies such as "taste sensors" are needed. In fact, trials to create "delicious nursing food" using "taste sensors" have already begun, with some success. For example, a company in the confectionery industry has developed a low-sugar dorayaki that cuts sugar by 90% and calories by 50%. The person in charge of the project said, "This kind of product would not have been possible without the taste sensor.


IT is being used everywhere. For example, at a convenience store, each item is labeled with data measured by a "taste sensor" along with its price and calories. Then, when you hold your smartphone up to the terminal in the store, it displays the products that best suit your tastes, such as this one and this one. This kind of project is also underway.


Finally, I would like to mention 3D food printers. In perhaps 10 years, 3D food printers will be in common households. We will be able to use them to make the food we like, the food that suits our own health and wellness. That era is coming. I am also involved in the 3D Food Blinter project. In any case, I am convinced that the future of human food is bright.



People eat "information," not food.


Sho Sakurai, University of Electro-Communications

When I greet people I meet for the first time, they always mention my name, Sho Sakurai of the University of Electro-Communications (laughs). My specialty is virtual reality, and to put it simply, I am conducting research on the possibility of changing cognition and behavior by stimulating the five human senses.


Here is a picture of some yummy looking food. I, for one, missed lunch today, and my stomach is growling like crazy right now, so I apologize if the microphone picks up any sound. Regardless, most people will think this looks delicious when they see it. In other words, even if they don't eat it, they somehow know it looks tasty.


Also, when you go camping and eat outside, it tastes better than usual, doesn't it? Or when you eat with people you don't like, it doesn't taste as good. In other words, people judge taste not only by the taste of the food itself, but also by a comprehensive evaluation that includes various information about the surroundings and their own physical condition.


The reason is that what people eat is not the food itself, but "information". The VR I am researching uses this "information" to work on people, and here I would like to introduce one study related to deliciousness.


This was the first study I conducted, and it involved an experiment in which food was placed on plates of various sizes and eaten. As I am sure you have experienced, the amount of food appears to change when the size of the plate changes. If the plate is small, the amount of food appears to be more, and if it is large, it appears to be less. So, when you eat on a small plate, you feel as if you have eaten a lot, and you feel full right away. If you want to lose weight, one way to do so may be to eat on a smaller plate.


To introduce one more thing, eating a meal alone is tasteless, isn't it? So, for example, if you put some tempura you bought at a restaurant on the table, play a video of it being cooked around it. This gives the illusion of freshly fried food, and the food tastes better.


Humans are simple. We eat the same food, but if you change the size of the plate or show an image of cooking, it tastes better. Just a little bit of work is all it takes to change our perception and behavior. That's why I decided to try using VR to change people's cognition and behavior, which at first glance seems a bit of a mad scientist. I believe that as this research progresses, it will be possible to extend deliciousness.



Molecular Culinary Science," which views cooking at the molecular level.


Shinichi Ishikawa, Miyagi University

My name is Ishikawa from Miyagi University. Recently, various technologies have been created in the world of food. Vertical farming, cultured meat, 3D food printers, robotics, IoT, tailor-made meals, and so on. I feel that we are now in an era in which we are being asked how we should deal with such technologies.


In this context, my research focuses on the process by which food enters the body, such as food science, culinary science, and nutrition. In particular, I have recently been working on "Molecular Culinary Science," which pursues new tastes by understanding ingredients and the cooking process at the molecular level.


Molecular Culinary Science has two approaches: the first is to think about the properties of ingredients, cooking processes, and delicious food at the molecular level. The second is to develop delicious food, that is, new ingredients and cooking methods, based on research at the molecular level. I believe that the culinary world will expand dramatically if we first consider these two approaches separately, and then, finally, bring them into circulation.


In order to conduct research at the molecular level, it is necessary to view a dish structurally. However, until now, it has been possible to evaluate individual elements such as taste, smell, texture, color, and luster, but it was impossible to objectively evaluate something like the overall shape of a dish. We wondered if it would be possible to view a dish structurally, as one might view an architectural structure, and we came up with a method.


It is called the "culinary formula" developed by a French physical chemist named Hervé Tis. Simply put, the formula uses two indicators, "food state" and "state of molecular activity," to evaluate a dish, and this formula can be used to capture it structurally. We also believe that it may be useful in systematizing cuisine and developing new dishes.


Furthermore, it will be useful in improving the accuracy of 3D food printers as Dr. Toko mentioned earlier. A normal food printer requires only basic data, but a 3D food printer requires data such as the three-dimensional arrangement of ingredients.


Mr. Tisse used a "formula" to describe the sauce in French cuisine. So, I apply the "formula" to various cuisines, including Japanese cuisine, and make them. I believe that if we can make good use of this "culinary formula," we can expand the deliciousness of food.



The study of "deliciousness" is not a simple matter.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

Now, I would like to proceed with the discussion. All three of you are conducting research on the theme of "deliciousness," but what is "deliciousness" in the first place? What is "taste" in the first place, and how do you view it in your own research? Could you start with that first? Dr. Ishikawa, how about you?


Ishikawa (city)

Mr. Ijichi mentioned earlier that research on "deliciousness" is not a simple task, and I am working on it with the same thought in mind. I often talk about "what is good taste" with people in the development of manufacturers, but we never come to a conclusion (laughs).


For example, each person has his or her own criteria for what he or she considers beautiful. Likewise, each person has his or her own criteria, but it is difficult to express them in words that everyone can understand. We researchers are trying to visualize and objectify this, but it is not an easy task.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

How about Sakurai Sensei?



I am not sure if this answers your question, but I believe that for humans, deliciousness is similar to "surprise" or "shock. When we eat something delicious, we are caught up in an awakening sensation, but it doesn't happen only once. Even if you have eaten it before, you will be shocked again. In that sense, I think it is something that gives us a bit of a shocking experience.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

How about Dr. Toko?


metropolitan backbone

Discussions about good taste are based on the premise that food is safe and secure. If you think that the food may contain poison, you will not be able to taste it. In other words, "good taste" is equal to "comfort. I believe that "comfort" in food is what we are talking about when we talk about "deliciousness. That's what I think. By the way, "comfort" and "pleasure" are different. No, they are close to pleasure, but they are not the same. In any case, "deliciousness" is only possible when there is safety and security.



Taste sensors and 3D food printers for "tailor-made meals.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

Thank you. Now I understand how the three of you view "deliciousness. Now, I would like to start a discussion on the theme of "deliciousness and health," which is also the corporate message of Ezaki Glico. I believe that the development of technology will not only improve the taste of food, but also contribute to people's health.


metropolitan backbone

I mentioned "nursing food" earlier, but the same is true for adult meals and hospital food. When you are ill, you cannot eat what you like. They say, "No sweets," "No too much salt," and so on. But it is very unfortunate that we cannot eat sweet foods, and we even want to eat salty foods.


Then, we can use technology to create sweet or salty foods that do not adversely affect a person's health. Using taste sensors and 3D food printers, we can create "tailor-made meals" to suit each individual. Hospital food in particular is terrible, isn't it? (Laughter). Frankly speaking, it is not good to eat. I personally think that something should be done about that first.


Ishikawa (city)

Personalized diets" and "tailor-made diets" will surely become popular. To begin with, each person has a different number of taste buds to perceive the taste of food. There are "super tasters" who have more taste buds than others and can sense subtle differences in taste, and there are "non-tasters" who are insensitive to taste.


If this is the case, it would be strange for everyone to eat the same thing. Ideally, each person should eat what suits his or her own taste buds. I believe that such an era will come in the future with the development of technology.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

If I can also measure the taste and make products according to the measured values, I believe that custom-made products will naturally become more and more popular. It may become possible to eat only what suits one's sense of taste. However, "taste" is not something that is created by a person's own will, is it? In some aspects, a person's "sense of taste" was created as a result of decades of eating what parents and schools serve.


So, I would like to ask, can we change our sense of taste? If it can be changed, we should change it so that we can enjoy foods that are low in sugar and salt. That way, even if we become ill and our diet is restricted, we will still be able to eat well. What do you think about this?



As we discussed earlier, a person's taste buds can be changed by the environment in which he or she eats. So I believe it is possible enough. For example, when people eat healthy food that is low in sugar and salt, they will also find it tasty if the people around them say it tastes good, so it is possible to keep showing videos of people eating healthy food, saying that it is "delicious" and "tasty. It might be a good idea to have influential people like so-called "influencers" talk about the deliciousness of healthy food.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

In fact, I am a heavy user of "Eat Log," and I often read the posts of various restaurants when I am on a business trip in the countryside. Recently, I have noticed that the purpose of reading has changed from reading for the purpose of searching for a restaurant to reading for the purpose of reading. I feel that I am reading in order to change my own taste buds so that I can be inspired by other people's thoughts and impressions of food and "taste it better". Therefore, I understand your point well.



Certainly, such usage is not surprising.



Where are the possibilities for extending "deliciousness"?


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

Nevertheless, will we really be able to make our own custom-made meals in the near future?


metropolitan backbone

Food preferences differ from country to country and region to region. Japanese people prefer this kind of taste, Vietnamese people prefer this kind of taste, people living in Okinawa prefer this kind of taste, people living in Hokkaido prefer this kind of taste, and so on. This can be scientifically proven.


Of course, in reality, each person has different tastes. Some Japanese prefer strong flavors, while others prefer lighter flavors. However, I do not think there is an extreme difference between Japanese and Vietnamese. I think that people who were born and raised in Japan are unlikely to like the same flavors that Vietnamese people prefer. Therefore, I think we can create something like a standard specification for Japanese and Vietnamese. Each person can customize it based on that.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

I see, it would be easy to create made-to-order meals that way, and 3D food printers will become widespread. If we combine this with the perception-altering VR system that Dr. Sakurai is researching, it may be possible to extend the "deliciousness" of food.



There is a term in the field of cognitive science and psychology called "cross-modal phenomena. The idea is that each of the five human senses is separate, but they can influence each other. Naturally, taste is also influenced by sight and hearing.


For example, shaved ice tastes like strawberries if it has red syrup on it. If it is yellow, it tastes like lemon, and if it is green, it tastes like melon. But in fact, they all taste the same. The reason why they taste different is because of the color and flavorings. Taste is essentially something that is perceived by the tongue and has nothing to do with the function of the eyes or nose, but it is also influenced by sight and smell. If we can make good use of these human qualities, I believe we can extend the deliciousness of food.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

Well, that is interesting. I believe you are also involved in research on food for the elderly, aren't you? From that perspective, could you tell us one last question?


Ishikawa (city)

The elderly have swallowing problems above all else, and when they eat something they think tastes good, they naturally produce saliva, which helps their swallowing go smoothly. Therefore, it is important to change the texture and shape of the food so that it passes down the throat easily, but it is also important to provide tasty food.


Alethea triandra var. japonica (variety of kangaroo grass)

Thank you very much. So, I spoke on the theme of "enhancing deliciousness" in this session, and I found that there are many different ideas in different research fields. I believe that there are still many ways to enhance the taste of food by utilizing new technologies. I look forward to your future research even more. Thank you very much for your time today.



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Distinguished Senior Professor, Faculty of Advanced Studies, Kyushu University / Specially Appointed Professor, Research and Development Center for Devices Applied to the Senses

Kiyoshi Toko, a juryo-designated official in charge of the Imperial Household Department(Mr. Kiyoji Toko
D. in Engineering from the Graduate School of Engineering, Kyushu University. D. in Engineering from the Graduate School of Engineering, Kyushu University, and has been a professor at the Faculty of Systems Information Science since 2018. He has developed the world's first taste sensor, and has recently succeeded in developing an ultra-sensitive odor sensor, and is collaborating with various ministries and agencies.



Project Assistant Professor, Department of Informatics, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Electro-Communications

Sho Sakurai(Mr. Sakurai Sho)
Graduated from the Department of Social Informatics, Faculty of Social Informatics, Gunma University in 2007, and completed the doctoral program in Advanced Interdisciplinary Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo in 2014. After working as a specially-appointed researcher in the Department of Intelligent Machines and Informatics, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology at the same university, and as a specially-appointed assistant professor in the Intelligent Machines and Systems Course, Graduate School of System Design, Tokyo Metropolitan University, he became a specially-appointed assistant professor in the Department of Informatics, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology at the University of Electro-Communications (current position) in 2016. Engaged in research on methods for extending physicality using human information processing mechanisms. Doctor of Engineering. Manga artist.


Professor, School of Food Science and Industry, Miyagi University

Shinichi Ishikawa(Mr. Shinichi Ishikawa
Graduated from Tohoku University, Faculty of Agriculture, and completed the Graduate School of Agriculture, Tohoku University. After working as a JSPS Research Fellow, Research Assistant and Lecturer at Kitasato University, Visiting Scholar at the University of Guelph, Canada (JSPS Postdoctoral Fellowship Abroad), and Associate Professor at Miyagi University, he assumed his current position. D. in Agricultural Science. His research specialty is molecular culinary science. His main research themes include studies on elucidating the mechanisms of cooking phenomena at the molecular level. He is the author of "The Delicious Encounter of Cooking and Science" (Kagaku-dojin) and co-translator of "The Kitchen as Laboratory" (Kodansha).


Liberace Corporation Agri-Garage Research Institute / Education Development Division

Satoshi Ijichi(IJICHI SO.)
Completed graduate studies at the Graduate School of Engineering, Osaka City University. At university, engaged in research on the determination of human sweet taste receptor structure using glycyl lytic acid derivatives. At RIVANES, he is mainly in charge of food and chemical companies, focusing on educational projects that connect researchers and the next generation. He was also involved in the establishment of "Science Castle," an academic society for junior high and high school students, and is currently working with elementary, junior high, and high school students on research on changes in taste response due to mental and physical stress.